David Cameron is edging towards a deal over his European Union renegotiation demands, which would pave the way to a membership referendum in June.
He won backing from EU leaders for the House of Commons and other parliaments to be given a “red card” to veto legislation from Brussels.
European Council president, Donald Tusk, announced he would table proposals on 2 February for a “new settlement” over Britain’s relationship with Brussels. He said there had been “good progress” in talks, but warned there were “still outstanding issues”.
However, there was growing optimism in London and Brussels that Mr Cameron and the other 27 EU leaders could reach a deal at a summit on 18-19 February. That would be essential for the PM to stick to his preferred timetable of staging the referendum on 23 June. Failure to negotiate agreement then would mean the poll would be delayed until September at the earliest.
Both sides warn there are several hurdles to be cleared before a deal can be struck, with his demand for restricting EU migrants’ benefits the most difficult issue.
Downing Street sources indicated that Mr Cameron had secured agreement over his call for a mechanism to block “unnecessary and unwanted” laws proposed by the European Commission.
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/19 24 June 2017
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses revellers from the Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival
2/19 23 June 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference at the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 23, 2017
3/19 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
4/19 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
5/19 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
6/19 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections
Millwall fan and London Bridge hero Roy Larner on 'Good Morning Britain'
Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
16/19 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
17/19 11 June 2017
England players celebrate with the trophy after the final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017 between Venezuela and England at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
18/19 11 June 2017
Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee celebrates winning the Elite Men Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
Danny Lawson/PA Wire
19/19 11 June 2017
Two men drink beer outside the Southwark Tavern which reopened for business today next to an entrance to Borough Market which remains closed in London
The PM had pressed for the power for 55 per cent of parliaments – equivalent to 16 parliaments in the 28 member states – to be able to block or rewrite the proposed such legislation. “This will strengthen the power of Westminster to stop unnecessary EU laws and addresses concerns that the current ‘yellow card’ system has not proved strong enough. It ensures the EC cannot just ignore the will of national parliamentarians and delivers greater democratic control over what the EU does,” a Number 10 source said.
Mr Tusk held talks in Downing Street on 31 January which ended with him declaring there had been “no deal” and suggesting there were just 24 hours to put together a proposal to present to EU leaders in 16 days’ time.
His announcement of a proposed agreement over Mr Cameron’s demands indicated that further progress had been made in talks in Brussels with British officials. Mr Tusk’s draft text will now be circulated to EU leaders, triggering a further period of intense diplomatic activity ahead of the Brussels summit.
It will contain his proposed solutions to British concerns over migration, protection for countries outside the Eurozone and competitiveness. The deal over protecting the sovereignty of national parliaments means one of Mr Cameron’s four key demands has been met.
Downing Street said he had secured an assurance that a proposed “emergency brake” on welfare payments to EU workers could be triggered immediately after a vote to remain in the EU, on the basis of existing levels of immigration.
It remained unclear how the proposed emergency brake would operate. The mechanism has been put forward by Brussels as an alternative to Mr Cameron’s plan to impose a unilateral four-year curb on benefits which other states ruled out as discriminatory and breached the freedom of movement principle.
A cross-party group of MPs has called for the membership referendum not to be held in June. They argued there should be more time for debate on the issue, and said they were worried it would clash with elections across the UK in May.
A Commons motion calling for a delay has been put down by SNP Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins and has also been signed by Tory, Labour, Plaid Cymru and the DUP MPs. The Conservative signatory is the former minister, David Davis.Reuse content