Cameron Steps Up Diplomacy as U.K.'s February EU Showdown Looms

  • Working dinner announced with EU President Tusk on Sunday
  • Prime minister to give speech in Hamburg with Merkel Feb. 12

Prime Minister David Cameron intensified his efforts to force through a deal on Britain’s European Union membership next month as he announced plans for a meeting with EU President Donald Tusk and a speech in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The premier will travel to Brussels on Friday to meet with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, before his talks with Tusk, who heads the council in which member states are represented, in London on Sunday evening. Tusk is scheduled to publish his response to Britain’s demands for revised membership terms early next week before the Feb. 18-19 summit of the 28-nation bloc’s leaders. If Cameron achieves an agreement next month, he will call a referendum as early as June.

“This is further evidence of the desire to continue the renegotiations, to continue meeting with leaders from across the EU, to work towards getting the best possible deal for the British people,” Cameron’s spokesman Christian Cubitt told reporters in London on Thursday. “We’d like to get a deal in February, but what we want is to get the best possible deal. If we can’t get it in February we’ll wait until next time.”

Cameron canceled a trip to see his Danish and Swedish counterparts to meet with Juncker. He is seeking to win agreement from fellow EU leaders to give protection to non-euro states, limit the commitment to “ever closer union” and strip away regulations that hamper competition. Most contentiously he also wants to limit access to welfare for EU citizens in the U.K. in a bid to stem immigration.

Many leaders have rejected Britain’s “discriminatory” demand that benefits paid to those in work should only be available to EU workers who have been in the country for more than four years. Alternative proposals have been suggested, Cameron’s office said, without giving any details.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said last week that discussions were taking place on an “emergency brake” on migration into the U.K. Such a mechanism would have to be put in place by the EU Commission, adding significance to Cameron’s meeting with Juncker on Friday.

Cameron’s speech at a banquet with Merkel in Hamburg on Feb. 12, six days before the summit, will address Britain’s relationship with the EU, his office said.

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