EU referendum: Cameron wrangling ahead of summit – BBC News

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David Cameron and Jean-Claude JunckerImage copyright

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David Cameron held talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday

David Cameron faces last-minute wrangling over his EU reforms ahead of a crunch summit on Thursday.

Poland and three other countries are reported to be still resisting welfare curbs while France is thought to be against financial regulation changes.

But Germany’s Angela Merkel said a lot of his demands were justified.

The PM is working on a separate plan to boost UK sovereignty aimed at getting sceptical Tories, including Boris Johnson, to get behind his reform deal.

Mr Johnson – who is being touted as a possible leader of the out campaign – has met Mr Cameron at Downing Street.

“I’ll be back,” he told reporters as he left Number 10, adding: “No deal, as far as I know.”

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said the London mayor, who is “pivotal” to Mr Cameron’s plans, would keep the PM waiting until he had returned from the summit before announcing which camp he would support, although his “no deal” comment was not thought to be a reference to his own concerns about sovereignty.

‘Finely balanced’

Sources close to Mr Johnson say his decision on whether to back remaining or leaving the EU is “very finely balanced”.

They say the decision by Mr Cameron to try and sell his proposed deal to Mr Johnson underlines how crucial he is likely to be if the prime minister is to win the referendum.

“They are pretty determined to get him on board,” the source added.

Media captionBoris Johnson discussed the planned EU reforms with David Cameron at Downing Street

They have strongly rejected suggestions Mr Johnson’s decision is tied to his ambitions to lead the Conservative Party when Mr Cameron steps down.

“His decision is in no way predicated on any leadership question. It’s based on what he thinks will be in the best interests of the country,” the source said.

Mr Cameron’s sovereignty plan is expected to suggest extra powers for the UK Supreme Court to protect UK law from challenges from the European Court of Justice, to assert the primacy of UK law over Brussels.

What happens next?


20:00 GMT: European Council President Donald Tusk, who is charged with delivering the reform deal, has dinner with Commission President Jean Claude Juncker

A new draft of the whole reform package will be published on the European Council website on Wednesday evening – but controversial issues such as welfare curbs and exempting the UK from “ever closer union” will still need to be finalised by the leaders at the summit


15:00: EU leaders begin arriving for their regular summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels

16:45: First working session on the UK proposed reforms

19:00: Working dinner on the migration crisis

Talks on the UK deal could resume after dinner and continue late into the night, if there is still no deal


08:00: Discussions will continue over an “English Breakfast” if no agreement on the UK demands has been reached on Thursday

If David Cameron gets a deal, he will hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday evening to reach an agreed position on remaining in the EU, although ministers will be free to campaign against that in a personal capacity

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 – Mr Cameron has another chance to get a deal here. 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

UK and the EU: Better off out or in?

The BBC’s Europe correspondent Chris Morris said most diplomats were confident a deal could be agreed this week and that we could know on Friday when a referendum will be held.

Ms Merkel told German politicians a lot of the PM’s demands were justified, but that deal could not stand in the way of further integration of the eurozone.

On Tuesday, European parliament president Martin Schulz warned that MEPs’ backing for any deal cannot be guaranteed, but Downing Street said the deal had the backing of MEPs.

A guide to how the EU works

Media captionA simple guide to how the European Union works

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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he expected proposed benefit changes to be at the heart of debate this week.

Czech Europe minister Tomas Prouza told the BBC he expected benefit curbs would apply only to new applicants, and not affect the existing 34,000 migrants in the UK who were recipients.

Downing Street has so far refused to say whether the changes extend to existing claimants or not.

Chris Morris said France was one of several member states anxious to ensure nothing in the deal would allow financial institutions in the City of London to benefit from lighter regulation than their continental counterparts.

Meanwhile, unions warned that leaving the EU would put workers’ rights at risk.

Speaking ahead of talks with Mr Juncker, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the debate so far had focused on “benefits to business”, adding: “Leaving the EU would risk lots of the rights at work we all rely on – like paid holidays and breaks, parental leave, health and safety, and equal treatment for part-time workers.”

Mr Cameron is seeking key changes on European integration, business competiveness, benefits restrictions and the operation of the eurozone.

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EU referendum: Cameron wrangling ahead of summit – BBC News