EU referendum: David Cameron ‘battling for Britain’ at summit – BBC News

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Media captionDavid Cameron arrives at EU summit ‘to battle for Britain’

David Cameron said he was “battling for Britain” as he arrived in Brussels for a crucial EU summit.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he is “quite confident” European leaders can reach a deal with Britain over its future membership of the EU.

Mr Cameron aims to return with a reform package he can put to the British people in a referendum in June.

But he faces resistance to some of his key demands from other EU leaders.

Mr Cameron said: “We’ve got some important work to do today and tomorrow and it’s going to be hard.

“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. I think it’s much more important to get this right than to do anything in a rush. But with goodwill, with hard work, we can get a better deal for Britain.”

The prime minister is currently taking part in a working group with other leaders on his reform package.

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

Leaked copies of a final draft of Britain’s proposals, seen by the Guardian, suggest Mr Cameron still has to convince fellow EU leaders to agree to treaty changes to cement his reforms.

The documents also suggest France is still resisting attempts to secure protection for the City of London by giving non-eurozone nations more power to stall financial regulation.

Mr Cameron’s plan to cut the amount of child benefit EU migrants can send back to to their home countries would apply across the EU according to the leaked drafts – something that would be resisted by Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The key parts of UK deal:

  • Allowing Britain to opt out from the EU’s founding ambition to forge an “ever closer union” of the peoples of Europe and greater powers to national parliaments to block EU legislation
  • Restrictions on other EU nationals getting in-work benefits in the UK for four years. Changing child benefit rules so payment reflects cost of living in countries where the child lives
  • Explicit recognition that the euro is not the only currency of the EU and guarantees to ensure countries outside 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

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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

Senior EU officials have been talking up the chances of a deal, while admitting there are still difficulties that need to be ironed out.

“I’m quite confident that we will have a deal during this European Council,” Mr Juncker told reporters.

“We have to sort out a certain number of questions… and I’m convinced that Britain will be a constructive and active member of the European Union.”

European Council president Donald Tusk said “this is a make-or-break summit, I have no doubt” as he arrived.

How has Cameron ended up holding a referendum?

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By Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

How on earth did the man who once accused the Conservatives of being out of touch for “banging on about Europe”, get himself into a position where he has already been “banging on about Europe” for months and months, and will spend the next four months still doing precisely that?

Most simply, as the years have passed, his party has changed.

As the EU expanded, and generations of MPs came and went, a soft scepticism towards the European project, neither full-throated support, nor hardcore opposition, became more common, and sympathy for the idea of a referendum spread from the margins.

The eurozone financial crisis, and the EU’s stumbling approach to sorting it out, gave a fresh energy to eurosceptic MPs who wanted to campaign to leave.

In part that apathy, if not downright dislike, towards the EU spread because of the enormous rise in the numbers of people from around the Union who came to live and work in the UK.

EU Out campaigners say the draft reforms will make no difference to the number of migrants coming to Britain and will not allow the UK to block unwanted EU laws.

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.”

Media captionA simple guide to how the European Union works

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan dismissed the proposed deal and warned that any changes could be unpicked by the European Parliament in future.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t know of any MEPs or Eurocrats in private who think that this is a fundamental change. All of the sound and fury, all of the negotiations, have come down to amending one directive – which we could have done at any time without needing any renegotiation.

“Privately, the Eurocrats were whooping and high-fiving and turning cartwheels because so little has been asked for.”

Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, who was a European commissioner, said Mr Cameron had “probably done as well as could be expected” and warned of “seismic” consequences if the UK left the EU.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party will 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”.

Brussels comes alive for Brexit showdown

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Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite arrives at the Brussels summit

By BBC Europe Editor Katya Adler

Civil servants and MEPs I’ve spoken to in Brussels believe the expected UK referendum and Britain’s EU renegotiation essentially came about because the PM was under pressure from his own Conservative party.

Yet in public, in the style of the Emperor’s New Clothes, they go along with the idea that this is all for the British people.

But then Brussels is used to dealing with two UKs: one on stage, the other behind the scenes. Successive UK prime ministers have been openly dismissive, disparaging, even hostile at EU summits, “playing to their eurosceptic gallery at home,” EU suits say knowingly, sotto voce, with a nod and a wink.

More from Katya

James Landale: How Cameron will get a June referendum

What happens next?


16:45 GMT (17:45 local): First working session on the UK proposed reforms at Brussels summit

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 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: David Cameron ‘battling for Britain’ at summit – BBC News