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UK PM to challenge Brussels over welfare powers

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British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on September 4, 2013 for parliament. Cameron will push the EU to curb migrants' access to British welfare payments during talks ahead of the country's membership referendum, he told the Times on Friday.AFP

Prime Minister David Cameron will push the EU to curb migrants' access to British welfare payments during talks ahead of the country's membership referendum, he told the Times on Friday.

Cameron will demand that inhabitants of new European Union member states face restrictions when seeking work in Britain and limits on their access to benefits.

"I think we particularly need to look at the rules on benefits," he told the British daily.

"One of the advantages of British membership of the EU is that British people go and live and work in other countries. But I think there is a problem with people living [here] and not working.

"Could the whole problems of immigration, problems with welfare tourism...be part of...making sure we have a European relationship that works for Britain?" he asked. "Yes of course it can."

Cameron is hoping to reach an agreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has backed calls for some powers to be reclaimed by national governments.

The Conservative Party leader accepts that the government is powerless to stop Romanian and Bulgarian job-seekers arriving in Britain from January.

Legislation that would guarantee an in-out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU by 2017 cleared its first parliamentary hurdle in July.

The legislation enshrines in law Cameron's promise to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership and then hold a referendum after the 2015 general election.