Cameron: Negotiations on EU reforms to continue after "good talks"

EU President Donald Tusk will oversee another 24 hours of talks on Britain's demands for EU reforms before releasing proposals for the EU's response to the demands, Prime Minister David Cameron said after meeting Tusk late Sunday.

Cameron wrote on Twitter that he had "a good meeting" over dinner in London, after which Tusk "agreed to another 24 hours of talks before publishing the draft British renegotiation text."

Tusk had promised to release his proposals for the European Union's response to Britain's demands on Monday if Sunday's talks with Cameron proved successful.

"No deal yet," he said on Twitter after the talks, noting that "intensive work" over the next 24 hours would be "crucial."

Tusk's negotiating team remained for further negotiations after Sunday's meeting, an EU source said on condition of anonymity.

"After those 24 hours, Tusk will assess the situation and decide on whether to table [a] proposal or not," the source said.

Before their dinner, Tusk had said he would "present solutions" on all four areas in which Cameron is seeking reform - competitiveness, sovereignty, social security and economic governance - while noting that there would be "no compromise on fundamental freedoms."

Cameron said he had made progress in his negotiations after meeting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday in Brussels, but had warned that EU proposals to address his demands were still "not good enough."

There has been fierce media speculation around the proposals, notably on Cameron's demand to restrict in-work benefits for EU migrants, including talk of an "emergency brake" that could be applied if Britain can show that its welfare system is overwhelmed.

A senior British government source said Cameron planned to tell Tusk that the emergency brake must apply immediately after Britain votes in an in-out referendum on the terms of its continued EU membership.

Cameron would call for "greater ambition" from EU leaders on the four areas for reform.

Details of how the emergency brake would work was expected to be the main topic at Sunday's dinner in Downing Street, after EU officials conceded last week that EU nationals should have to pay into Britain's welfare system before receiving benefits, the government source said.

"This [concession] has opened the way towards a solution, but the PM will make clear that a deal will only be possible if a brake would apply to current levels of EU migration to Britain, could be triggered immediately after the referendum and would apply long enough to resolve the underlying problem," the source said.

Freedom of movement is one of the most cherished achievements of the European Union and is enshrined in its treaties. Many are wary of changing the treaties to meet Britain's demands, as this can be a long and complicated process.

"I don't expect Tusk to offer future treaty change on free movement," an EU source said on condition of anonymity, noting that Tusk was accompanied to London by his chief negotiators, including his top legal advisor.

Cameron has promised to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership before holding an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.

Speculation has mounted that he could announce a referendum in June if he secures a satisfactory deal at an EU leaders' summit on February 18-19, but the British government source said Cameron would not rush into a deal.

"The prime minister intends to leave Tusk in no doubt that he will not do a deal at any price, making clear he is not in a hurry and that it's far more important to secure significant reforms," the source said.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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