EU referendum: Final day of UK deal talks ahead of summit – BBC News

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UK Prime Minister David Cameron met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday

David Cameron is gearing up to meet EU leaders after European officials hold a final day of talks on the UK renegotiation draft deal.

The PM hopes to finalise the deal at the summit starting in Brussels on Thursday, enabling a referendum on the UK’s EU membership as early as June.

European parliament president Martin Schulz has warned that MEPs’ backing for any deal cannot be guaranteed.

On Tuesday, Downing Street said the deal had the backing of MEPs.

Number 10 said the leaders of the three largest groups in the European parliament had “made clear their support” for the UK’s EU deal.

Mr Schulz, who described his meeting with Mr Cameron on Tuesday as “very constructive”, said that once a deal was agreed by EU leaders, MEPs would start the legislative process as soon as possible.

But he cautioned: “To be quite clear: no government can go to a parliament and say, ‘This is our proposal, can you give a guarantee about the result?’ This is, in democracy, not possible.

“Therefore my answer is the European parliament will do the utmost to support compromise and a fair deal, but I can’t pre-empt the result in the European parliament.”

BBC Europe correspondent Chris Morris said: “Most diplomats seem confident that a deal can be done this week – not least because most of their political masters want to focus on other issues, notably the migration crisis.

“That means we could know on Friday evening when the referendum will be held, to decide whether the UK stays in the EU or leaves.”

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Mr Cameron’s planned curbs to child benefit for EU migrants appear to be a sticking point in the talks with the EU, with unease from eastern European countries.

Czech Europe minister Tomas Prouza told BBC News that he expected the proposals would only apply 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.

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

Our correspondent Chris Morris said: “In addition, France is just one of a number of member states anxious to ensure that nothing in the deal would allow financial institutions in the City of London to benefit from lighter regulation than their continental counterparts.”

Ska Keller, vice-chairwoman of the Greens and European Free Alliance group of MEPs, said it was “very important” the final agreement did not include discriminatory measures and said the plans would not simply be nodded through.

She told BBC Two’s Newsnight that EU and UK citizens “will expect from us that we have a very close look as this.”

In a separate development on Tuesday, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, spoke at a Foreign Office awards ceremony of how “in an increasingly turbulent world, our ability to unite in common action with other nations is essential”.

Media captionPrince William: “For centuries Britain has been an outward-looking nation”

This was interpreted by some as signalling the prince’s support for staying in the EU, with Britain Stronger in Europe saying “people from all walks of life are getting behind the campaign”. However the rival Leave.EU campaign said it “could just as easily claim” his words showed “we should not give any importance to the EU”.

A spokesman for the prince later denied it was an intervention in the EU debate, saying it had been a speech to young diplomats and the word “Europe” had not been mentioned once.

If a deal is agreed at this week’s summit, the PM will hold a cabinet meeting on Friday evening, sources have told the BBC.

Downing Street has said ministers cannot speak out until the cabinet has met to agree a government position, and it had been claimed this would give the Remain campaign an unfair head start if a meeting was delayed until the following week.

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

He has promised an in-out referendum on whether the UK should remain within the EU by the end of 2017.

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EU referendum: Final day of UK deal talks ahead of summit – BBC News