David Cameron is facing a new battle with Brussels over asylum rules as he embarks on a push to finalise his EU renegotiation deal.
The European commission is expected to propose scrapping arrangements that mean refugees have to claim asylum in the first country European they arrive in.
Abandoning the so-called Dublin regulation could leave the UK and other northern European countries more open to migration flows, as the majority of refugees have been arriving in the south and trying to continue their journey overland.
According to the Financial Times, the plan is likely to be put forward by the commission in March – but will face strong resistance.
The news comes as the prime minister prepares to depart for a three-day diplomatic offensive, meeting a series of EU counterparts at the World Economic Forum in Davos before visiting Prague for more talks.
He still hopes to secure a new membership package in time for the EU summit in Brussels on 18 February but officials admit it is an ambitious timescale. Further delay would make it impossible to hold the in/out referendum in June.
Cameron is to deliver a keynote speech on Britain’s role in the EU on Thursday in Davos. His other main focus will be laying the groundwork for a conference on Syria being staged in London next month.
He will hold a joint event with Queen Rania of Jordan on Friday morning, encouraging business and political leaders to take “practical steps” to create economic opportunities for those displaced by the civil war.
The government of Jordan, one of the countries most affected by the exodus of refugees from Syria, has already asked the EU to reduce duty on exports.
Cameron is expected to raise the issue during meetings with European leaders, and wants new rules in force by this summer.
“Next month, we will bring together world leaders in London to talk about how we can help Syrian refugees, five years after they first started fleeing brutality and conflict in Syria,” Cameron said.
“In the time since, the international community has worked hard to provide vital humanitarian assistance, but as each day passes the demand for more life-saving aid grows and their hopes for the future wane.
“That’s why the London conference is so important. We don’t just need to agree more money and more aid. We need to agree concrete action that will give hope to so many, jobs so they can provide for their families and education for their children.
“The EU has a vital role to play – coming together to offer genuine support for Syria’s neighbours. We should swiftly agree to change the rules so Jordan can increase its exports and create new jobs.”
Cameron added: “These steps will provide real benefits to refugees in the region now, as well as enabling them to play a leading role in Syria’s reconstruction in the future.
“This is not just in the interests of Syria and her neighbours. It is in the interests of Europe too. The more we do to enable people to stay in the region, the less likely we are to see them coming to Europe.”
Other measures the prime minister is calling for include allowing Syrians to run businesses in refugee camps and trade with host communities, and investment in Jordan at preferential rates by institutions such as the World Bank.