08:23 Thursday 17th December 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: European leaders look set to maintain their firm opposition to some of David Cameron’s demands for changes to Britain’s relationship with the EU. The Prime Minister will come head-to-head with his European counterparts later at a summit in Brussels. Mr Cameron wants the UK to remain in a reformed EU, but he’s ruling nothing out if his objectives are turned down. Our Europe correspondent Gavin Lee has more details.
GAVIN LEE: It was January two years ago when David Cameron promised a referendum, to offer what he called the simple choice between staying or leaving the European Union. After his election win this year he announced he’d first tried to renegotiate a new relationship with Europe, and then, if negotiations were successful, to campaign for Britain to stay in the EU ahead of a referendum some time before the end of 2017.
We’re six months into negotiations now, and what’s been achieved? A round robin tour to the other EU capitals, with David Cameron setting out his stall to each leader on four key areas where Britain wants change.
The first objective is to protect the Single Market for Britain and others that don’t use the Euro, and for safeguards to ensure the UK doesn’t contribute in any financial crisis bailout.
The second objective is to make the EU more competitive as a trading block, and to reduce all the bureaucracy in Brussels.
The third objective is sovereignty, and an opt-out clause to resist a closer political integration. And so far the responses have been positive, and many countries are showing willing to support the changes.
But the toughest goal is the fourth demand, restricting the benefits of EU migrants to the UK, such as losing the right to claim tax credits for four years, in an effort to reduce one of the pull factors for migrants. And the Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo worries this could discriminate against her citizens. But it’s an important issue for Cameron. Without it, Eurosceptics claim the other demands are ultimately trivial, and won’t return powers to the UK.
Today sees another round of talks with all 28 leaders meeting in Brussels, and the Head of the European Council Donald Tusk, the broker in all of this, has said there are still substantial political differences, but is aiming for some agreement, possibly by February.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Gavin Lee reporting there, our Europe Correspondent.