EU referendum: Cameron deal talks continue through night – BBC News

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European Council President Donald Tusk, left, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, with UK Prime Minister David CameronImage copyright

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Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and David Cameron held talks in the early hours on Friday

Talks on reform of the UK’s place in the EU continued in the early hours after Downing Street said there was “real hard work to do overnight”.

European Council President Donald Tusk said there had been “some progress” on the first day of the Brussels summit, but “a lot still remains to be done”.

He began a series of meetings with David Cameron and other leaders in the early hours. Formal talks resume later.

Divisions on the proposed deal for the UK are said to be deeper than expected.

Number 10 sources say Mr Cameron and Mr Tusk left talks at 05:30 local time (04:30 GMT) and are due to return at 09:00 with the UK prime minister set to hold a series of one-to-one talks with other leaders and Mr Tusk ahead of an “English lunch”.

During the second day of the summit later, Mr Cameron will seek to secure the deal he wants ahead of holding an in/out referendum on the UK’s EU membership.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reported by the Reuters news agency as saying it had become “clear that agreement will not be easy for many, but that the will is there”.

Media captionEU Council President Donald Tusk gave a short press conference overnight

The first EU Council session ended on Thursday with no agreement on several issues, and an EU source said that while it had been “intense and constructive” with all the countries confirming their wish for the UK to stay in the bloc, some also set out specific concerns.

“We expected this,” the EU source said: “But honestly we had hoped for some of them to be less critical.”

BBC Europe correspondent Chris Morris says: “Day two of this summit dawns with problems aplenty. Diplomats from several countries said divisions on the proposed deal for the UK were deeper than expected.”

He added that a deal could still be done but “arguments could drag on through the day”.

An EU source spoke of five key areas where agreement had not been reached:

  • How the EU’s binding treaties will be altered to make the changes
  • How many member states can trigger an “emergency brake” on migrant welfare
  • For how long a member state can impose restrictions on in-work benefits for migrants
  • Whether child benefit curbs can be applied retrospectively
  • Changing treaties to alter the principle of “ever-closer” union

Late on Thursday, a Downing Street source said: “We are only going to do an agreement at this summit if we make some real progress from where we were at 8:30 this evening.

“If we don’t, we are not going to have an agreement at this summit. There is some real hard work to do overnight and we have got to see real progress.”

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David Cameron made no comment as he left the talks, which stretched into the early hours of Friday morning

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said it was not clear whether the downbeat mood was “summit theatrics or genuine disappointment” at lack of progress.

She added: “Sometimes politicians love nothing more than snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.”

Earlier, senior EU officials had talked up the chances of a deal, with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker saying he was “quite confident” during the Council meeting and Mr Tusk saying it was a “make-or-break summit”.

Speaking as he arrived at the summit on Thursday, Mr Cameron said: “I’ll be battling for Britain. If we can get a good deal I’ll take that deal. But I will not take a deal that doesn’t meet what we need.”

Media captionKatya Adler looks at which European countries David Cameron can count on

The PM’s Eurosceptic critics have branded the process a sham, saying that even if the reforms are agreed they will not allow the UK to block unwanted EU laws or affect the scale of EU migration.

The key parts of the UK deal include:

  • Allowing Britain to opt out of the EU’s founding ambition to forge an “ever-closer union” of the peoples of Europe, and greater powers for national parliaments to block EU legislation
  • Restrictions on other EU nationals getting in-work benefits in the UK for a period after they arrive in the UK; changing child benefit rules so payment reflects cost of living in the country where the child resides
  • Explicit recognition that the euro is not the only currency of the EU and guarantees to ensure countries outside the eurozone are not disadvantaged or have to join eurozone bailouts
  • A target for the reduction of the “burden” of excessive regulation and extending the single market

France is thought to be resisting attempts to secure protection for the City of London by giving non-eurozone nations more power to stall financial regulation.

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EU leaders pose for the traditional group photograph

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David Cameron about to be greeted by Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydto

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Angela Merkel deep in conversation with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

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Talks about the UK deal continued until Mr Cameron left around 5:30am local time

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There will be more talks between Mr Cameron and others, including the French president on Friday

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he expected Mr Cameron to come back with a deal from Brussels, as the other leaders would recognise how “embarrassing” it would be for him to return empty-handed.

But he added: “He hasn’t asked for us to get back supremacy for our Parliament, he hasn’t asked for us to control our own borders, he hasn’t asked to reduce the vast daily fees we pay.

“We will be allowed – after he has come here like Oliver Twist and begged for concessions – to control migrant benefits for up to four years. I find the whole thing as a British person pretty shameful.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would be campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU – but he branded David Cameron’s renegotiations “a theatrical sideshow, designed to appease his opponents within the Conservative Party”.

Media captionA simple guide to how the European Union works

What happens next?


10:00 GMT (11:00 local): Formal group discussions will continue.

If David Cameron gets a deal, he will return to the UK as quickly as possible to hold an emergency cabinet meeting to reach an agreed position on remaining in the EU. At this point, ministers who want Britain out of the EU will be allowed to speak out.

Mr Cameron may then announce the date of the UK’s referendum, although he does not have to do so

17 March:

The next scheduled EU summit – at which Mr Cameron could have another chance to get a deal. There has also been talk of a special summit at the end of February

Thursday 23 June:

Still seen as the most likely date of a UK referendum if Mr Cameron gets a deal in February or March, but he has until the end of 2017 to hold one

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EU referendum: Cameron deal talks continue through night – BBC News