Donald Tusk to table EU reform proposals after Cameron talks
Negotiations to reset the terms of Britain’s EU membership are reaching their final stages after , the president of the European council, announced he would table proposals on Tuesday for a “new settlement” for the UK.
The former prime minister of Poland said he had made good progress with British and other officials since meeting in Downing Street on Sunday night.
Tusk : “Tomorrow around noon I will table proposal for a new settlement for . Good progress last 24 hours but still outstanding issues.”
Cameron is expected to brief the cabinet on Tuesday morning on the state of his negotiations with Tusk, who hopes to reach a deal at the next European council meeting on 18-19 February.
A failure to reach agreement could lead Tusk to convene a second, extra, summit by the first week of March to allow Cameron to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s EU membership on his preferred date of 23 June.
Downing Street is likely to give a detailed response to Tusk’s statement on Tuesday, which is likely to be highly detailed and will explain any legislative changes that are needed. Cameron will speak out if he believes that Tusk has failed to meet his demands in the most contentious areas of welfare reforms and protections for non-eurozone members.
Cameron will then embark on a tour of EU capitals over the next two weeks to persuade EU leaders to back his demands or risk forcing the UK out of the EU.
Downing Street said earlier that good progress had been made in the negotiations. The prime minister was encouraged when Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, agreed at a meeting in Brussels on Friday that an emergency brake to limit benefit payments to EU migrants could be imposed as soon as a referendum is passed.
It is understood that a mechanism proposed by Juncker, which would be set out in the Tusk letter, says current levels of migration to the UK would justify the application of the brake.
But Downing Street says the emergency brake would have to be as effective as the prime minister’s original proposal of a four-year ban on EU migrants claiming in-work benefits.
Steve Baker, the Tory MP for Wycombe, who is a leading member of the Vote Leave group, has described the brake as a “joke” amid claims that it would be lifted after four years. The prime minister is understood to be pressing for restrictions on benefits to be applied for seven years.
No 10 indicated that more work was needed on Osborne’s demands for non-eurozone countries to be given protections from rules drawn up for the single market.
Downing Street said the UK was looking for a watertight “enforcement mechanism”, though not a veto, to allow non-eurozone members to flag up concerns. This could involve contentious legislation being referred to EU leaders on the European council. France is nervous because no member state has a veto over the rules of the single market, while each EU leader has a veto on the European council.
More work was also needed to stop non-EU citizens getting access to Britain through “sham marriages”. Non-EU citizens who marry a UK citizen have no automatic right to settle in the UK. But if they marry a citizen of another EU country they can move to the UK under the EU’s rules on free movement.
Welcoming progress in the talks over the weekend, No 10 denied that Cameron was staging a confrontation with EU leaders before delivering a .
“I wouldn’t accept that at all,” the prime minister’s spokeswoman said in response to criticisms from the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaign groups. “Look at the amount of hard work, time and effort that the prime minister, other senior ministers and indeed senior government officials have put into this and into making progress. Look at the work we have had to do with a number of other European countries that have raised concerns. These are significant, far-reaching reforms. That is why it is taking time.”