Cameron meets EU officials, as UK deal gets closer
By Eszter Zalan
The European Union and the UK might be edging towards a deal on the UK’s membership of the EU as British prime minister David Cameron is meeting EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday (29 January) for a final push on the UK’s membership negotiations to keep the country in the EU.
The two are expected to focus on Cameron’s call for a four-year ban before EU workers in Britain can claim welfare benefits.
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The proposal raised concerns it was discriminating against EU citizens and challenges one of the cornerstones of the EU, the free movement of workers.
The EU’s executive would initiate any legislation needed for the deal.
The British prime minister will also meet European Parliament president Martin Schulz in Brussels, on Friday.
On Sunday evening, Cameron is meeting EU Council president Donald Tusk, who leads the negotiations with fellow member states, to comb through the proposal for a deal expected to be put forward by Tusk on Monday.
Cameron cancelled trips to Denmark and Sweden to make a final push for a deal with the EU officials.
One of the ideas on Juncker and Cameron’s plate for the working lunch is an “emergency migration brake” that would allow Britain to limit welfare payments for EU workers.
The UK would have to prove its welfare system was overwhelmed and it would need the approval of a majority of EU states, and crucially, not Brussels, to trigger the break, according to reports.
Other EU member states could also use the brake.
Asked about the “emergency brake” plan, Cameron said on Thursday night that he was glad others in Europe were taking on board the issue and looking at strong alternatives to his proposals.
“What's good is that others in Europe are bringing forward ideas to address this problem so we have better control of movement of people into our country,” he added.
The prime minister is aiming to close a deal ahead of a summit of EU leaders on 18-19 February.
Just before the summit, Cameron is expected to fly to Germany on 12 February, where he will have the opportunity to discuss the possible deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel and give a speech in Berlin.
Cameron set out his four demands, boosting competitiveness, safeguards against more political integration in the EU and for countries that do not use the euro, to other EU leaders at the December summit.
The British PM is planning to hold the referendum on the UK’s EU membership based on the deal in June, which would be possible if an agreement is sealed by EU leaders next month, or early March at the latest.
The proposed deal is a compromise, but one that Cameron could boast as a victory during his campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.