26th Sep 2023

Cameron holds referendum talks with Juncker

  • Cameron (r) and Juncker (l) will 'take stock' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

British prime minister David Cameron will hold talks with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Friday on the renegotiation of Britain's EU membership, Cameron’s office said Wednesday (27 January).

Cameron and Juncker “will take stock” of the negotiations, officials confirmed.

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“The commission acts as a facilitator in the talks. It is in this spirit that president Juncker will meet prime minister Cameron to discuss the latest state of play in the UK talks,” a commission spokeswoman said.

Cameron cancelled trips to Sweden and Denmark on Friday, where he was to hold talks with leaders on the renegotiation.

An official said there was no surprise element in the Brussels visit as it was a matter of finding the right time.

No press event is foreseen for after the Cameron-Juncker meeting.

Cameron hopes to achieve a deal on his proposed reforms to the UK-EU relationship in three weeks time at the EU leaders’ summit on 18-19 February and to hold a referendum on the UK's EU membership as early as June.

The British prime minister will not be meeting with European Council president Donald Tusk this time, who is leading the negotiations with fellow member states.

According to an EU official, Tusk will meet Cameron in London on Sunday evening to discuss the issues before Tusk finalises the proposals covering Cameron's requests, which is expected to be ready early next week.

Cameron's Brussels visit comes as officials expect Tusk to sum up the negotiations in a letter to EU leaders early next week in preparation of the summit discussions.

The most controversial issue among Cameron’s reform ideas is curbing in-work benefits for EU workers in Britain for four years.

The proposal raised concerns that it might discriminate against EU citizens and could threaten the free movement of workers, an EU principle.

No Brussels campaign

Jonathan Faull, who is heading the commission’s taskforce on the UK referendum, told eurosceptic MEPs on Wednesday that the EU executive would not campaign in the UK referendum.

The British EU official told an EP group chaired by UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage: “We do not intend to campaign in the referendum in any way. That’s a matter for the British people.”

After Farage, who leads the call for the UK to leave the bloc, pressed the EU official, Faull added that the EU’s daily work would continue during the campaign.

“We have no intention to participate directly, … the normal business of the EU will continue,” he said, adding that “we do not finance or engage in propaganda activities”.

“The European Commission will in the United Kingdom, as in the other 27 member states, continue to inform citizens, businesses, consumers and so on about its activities,” confirmed Faull, who said he did not feel that he was in a “lion’s den” surrounded by eurosceptics, as one of the UKIP MEPs had suggested.

Faull told MEPs that negotiators were still working on a possible agreement on Cameron’s proposals.

“Under of the aegis of the council secretariat and president Tusk’s office, we are now very busy in trying to finalise a set of papers, which can be sent out to the heads of state and government, to prepare for the summit,” Faull said.

“We are not very far away from a day when a set of documents from the European Council could be issued if the item is maintained on the February council [agenda],” he said, declining to go into details about possible compromises.

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