British PM claims 'real progress' in negotiations with EU

LONDON -- British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed "real progress" Tuesday in negotiations with the European Union, but said more work needs to be done before a satisfactory agreement on reform of the bloc can be approved at a summit later this month.

See Full Article

Cameron told sometimes skeptical British voters that he is close to achieving a deal that would satisfy many of his demands for a fundamental change in Britain's relations with the European Union.

He spoke after European Council President Donald Tusk unveiled proposals aimed at keeping Britain in the 28-nation EU.

The proposals would make it possible for British lawmakers to work with European counterparts to block unwanted EU laws and also recognize that Britain now faces an "exceptional situation" regarding the influx of immigrants taxing Britain's social services.

They would end Britain's commitment to an "ever closer union" with Europe and recognize its ability to stay out of the euro single currency.

Cameron is seeking concessions ahead of a planned referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the EU. That vote may be held as early as June. He said the document delivers the "substantial change" he had sought.

"On so many things, I was told these things would be impossible," he said. "I said I wanted a red card system for national parliaments to block legislation. People said you wouldn't get that. It's there in the document."

He also cited progress in his concerted bid to make citizens of other EU nations wait before claiming welfare benefits in Britain.

The draft deal was made public in a letter to EU leaders. It must be endorsed by Britain's EU partners and is set to be thrashed out at a summit in Brussels on Feb. 18.

It is not clear whether the proposal as it now stands will placate many Britons who have come to resent the EU's rule-making power and worry about the arrival on European shores of more than 1 million people fleeing war and poverty in the past year.

Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party and an outspoken advocate of taking Britain out of the union to restore full sovereignty, called the draft proposal "truly pathetic" since it does not change EU treaties and does not restore Britain's ability to control its borders and its laws. He said it does too little to limit welfare payments to migrants and does nothing to close Britain's "open door" to new arrivals.

"There is no fundamental reform, there's some fiddling around the edges on migrant benefits," he said.

His criticism was echoed by others who want Britain to leave the union. Conservatives for Britain leader Steve Baker said the deal "smells funny."

Some business leaders struck a more positive note. Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said the deal is better than had been expected.

"The top reform priorities for IoD members are to stop the flow of unnecessary red tape from Brussels, make clear the U.K. is not on a path to more political integration, and make the EU more competitive," he said. "There are proposals on these areas in Tusk's draft which hold promise, although no one should get carried away just yet."

He cautioned that most of the group's members are waiting to see the final outcome of negotiations before decide whether to give thumbs up or down to continued EU membership.

Tusk said in his introduction to the proposals that he addressed Cameron's concerns but did not agree to any alterations to "the principles on which the European project is founded."

He said maintaining the EU's unity is the key challenge for the bloc. It has been tested by the unprecedented migrant influx, several financial crises and Britain's growing disenchantment. More compromise is needed or the bloc will fail, Tusk said.

On the contentious issue of benefits for EU migrant workers, Tusk says that EU treaties must be respected, but he suggests there is room for manoeuvr by saying that current rules on the free movement of people could be clarified.

The EU's executive Commission has drawn up a "safeguard mechanism" which could be used for Britain to respond to "exceptional situations of inflow of workers" from other EU countries.

The plan aims to meet the concerns of Britain about its membership terms and perceived loss of sovereignty to Brussels without requiring time-consuming changes to the EU's legal treaties.

Cameron wants to hold a referendum by the end of next year on whether Britain should leave the EU, with this June already shaping up as a possible time for the vote.

Experts from EU nations are due to meet Friday for a first joint discussion of the proposals, hoping to pave the way for an agreement at the summit.

While it is a full member of the EU, Britain is often seen as having one foot in and one foot out, with the right to opt out of certain legislation, particularly in the areas of justice and immigration.

But Cameron's push to hold a referendum has raised troubling questions about the future of the European project at a time when a refugee emergency and economic crisis in Greece also weigh heavily on the bloc.

Cook reported from Brussels



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • After weeks of protest in South Korea, crowds celebrate Park's impeachment

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- The previous time South Korea's parliament voted to impeach a president, ruling party lawmakers bawled and hurled ballot boxes, a man set himself on fire in front of the National Assembly, and thousands glumly held candlelight vigils night after night to save late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun. Source
  • Colombia's Santos accepts Nobel Peace Prize as 'gift from heaven'

    World News CTV News
    STOCKHOLM -- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, saying it gave a boost to the "impossible dream" of ending his country's half-century-long civil war. In his acceptance speech, Santos described the award as a "gift from heaven" and dedicated it to all Colombians, particularly the 220,000 killed and 8 million displaced in the longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Source
  • The cost of accountability: Can Canadian police services afford body cam technology?

    Canada News CBC News
    One of the clearest conclusions following the recent Toronto Police Service pilot project of body-worn cameras was how positive the public felt about them. A police commissioned survey found 95 per cent strongly supported the idea and 85 per cent of the police officers involved agreed, according to Insp. Source
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos collects Nobel Peace Prize

    World News CBC News
    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has accepted the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. On the eve Saturday's ceremony, Santos described the award as a "gift from heaven" and dedicated it to all Colombians, particularly the victims of the country's 52-year-long civil war. Source
  • 5 killed in explosion following train derailment in Bulgaria

    World News CTV News
    SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Five people were killed in northeastern Bulgaria following a gas explosion on a derailed tanker train early Saturday, national radio reported. Officials said at least 23 people were injured, many with severe burns. Source
  • Russia says thousands fleeing Aleppo as Assad nears victory

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT -- Some 50,000 civilians have fled eastern Aleppo over the past two days in a "constant stream," Russia said Saturday, as Syrian government forces close in on the last pocket of opposition control in the northern city. Source
  • 12 stories about Syrian refugees in Canada that warmed our hearts

    Canada News CTV News
    A year ago, on December 10, 163 Syrian refugees arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport around 11:30 p.m. Waiting to greet them at the terminal was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Amidst photographers and television crews, a beaming Trudeau shook hands with the families, handed out stuffed toys to children and even helped them find coats that fit from neatly piled stacks of winter wear. Source
  • 5 killed in Bulgarian explosion following train derailment

    World News CBC News
    Five people were killed in northeastern Bulgaria following a gas explosion on a derailed tanker train early Saturday, national radio reported. Officials said at least 23 people were injured, many with severe burns. Nikolay Nikolov, who heads the country's firefighting department, said at least 20 buildings in the village of Hitrino were destroyed when containers of gas exploded at 5:40 a.m. Source
  • Are democracy's days numbered in Hong Kong?

    World News CBC News
    On the edge of Victoria Harbour, not far from the wharves where British naval ships used to dock in Hong Kong, the push is on to strengthen Chinese control of this former colony. The red flags are flying, the loudspeakers are at full volume. Source
  • Racial profiling studied as N.S. Human Rights Commission turns 50

    Canada News CBC News
    The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission marked its 50th anniversary Friday with a conference looking at racial profiling, among other things. One African-Nova Scotian man who was raised in public housing says anti-black racism in this province manifests itself in many different ways, including in cases of racial and criminal profiling. Source