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

  • Authorities: Bullet meant for charging pit bull ricochets off ground and kills teen boy

    World News Toronto Sun
    PALMDALE, CALIF. - A deputy’s bullet that was fired at a charging pit bull apparently ricocheted off the ground and hit and killed a 17-year-old boy who had been helping to restrain the dog, authorities said Thursday. Source
  • Skunk with McFlurry cup stuck on its head gets daring rescue

    Canada News CTV News
    A sticky situation almost became a stinky one when an Ontario woman came to the aid of a skunk with a McDonald’s McFlurry cup stuck on its head. Tina Christie from Kemptville, Ont., was getting her car washed when she noticed the distressed animal. Source
  • Trudeau must step up to the plate for pastor jailed in North Korea

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    There seems to be time for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to playfully crash weddings and school graduations, attend political parades as well as sometimes surf, kayak, run, bike and climb. But can he find a minute to call North Korea’s dictator to talk about imprisoned Canadian Rev. Source
  • Intercept attempt fails in missile defence test off Hawaii

    World News CTV News
    HONOLULU -- The U.S. Missile Defence Agency said it failed to intercept a ballistic missile during a test off Hawaii. The failure came during a test conducted with Japan's Defence Ministry late Wednesday. The U.S. Source
  • North Korea tests rocket engine, U.S. officials say

    World News CBC News
    North Korea has carried out another test of a rocket engine that the United States believes could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, a U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday. Source
  • 'Hopefully, someday we'll see justice': Elliot Lake marks 5 years since deadly mall collapse

    Canada News CBC News
    Cars on Ontario Avenue in Elliot Lake, Ont., pass by a dusty, deserted property spanning several city blocks. An abandoned demolition machine, worn out signs and a road leading to where the Algo Centre Mall's parking deck used to be are all that is left on the site. Source
  • Alberta investigation to probe complaints of jailing indigenous sex assault victim

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Alberta's Judicial Council will investigate complaints made about a judge over the jailing of an indigenous sex assault victim. The head of the council has received four complaints about provincial court Judge Raymond Bodnarek over his ruling that forced the homeless woman to spend time in the Edmonton Remand Centre. Source
  • Brexit: May offers hope for EU citizens, wins guarded praise

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- British Prime Minister Theresa May promised Thursday that EU citizens will not be immediately kicked out of Britain when it leaves the union and says their fate will be a top priority in Brexit negotiations -- prompting guarded praise from other EU leaders at a tense time for the continent. Source
  • Reserve declares state of emergency after third teen suicide

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Jenera Roundsky was just 12. On June 13, she texted a friend to say farewell - and then she killed herself. Jenera was the third girl to kill herself in recent days on the Wapekeka First Nation - northwest of Thunder Bay. Source
  • Police say security 'climate,' not specific threat, prompted weapons upgrade

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- City police officers patrolling the airport in the nation's capital are getting military-style rifles, but officials say the move wasn't prompted by any specific security threats. Rather, police say, the issuance of carbine rifles to officers at Ottawa International Airport will simply provide a higher degree of safety for travellers. Source