Cameron Presses Tusk for Immediate Brake on EU Migrant Welfare

  • Talks in London to center on terms of U.K. limits to benefits
  • Anti-EU campaign dismisses negotiations as meaningless `fudge'

Prime Minister David Cameron will press for the immediate application of an “emergency brake” on welfare payments to European Union migrants in Britain in talks with European Council President Donald Tusk in London on Sunday.

It has been proposed during negotiations that EU states should be permitted to bar immigrants from receiving payments for four years if they can demonstrate their welfare systems are under strain. Cameron will only accept this compromise if it can be applied immediately, according to a U.K. official familiar with his plans who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

Cameron, who has proposed a permanent four-year ban as he seeks to reduce the attractiveness of the U.K. to migrants, will say the brake, which would have to be initiated by the European Commission, should be a “stop-gap” as a more permanent solution is drawn up, the official said.

Leaders from the 28 EU member states will meet in Brussels on Feb. 18 and 19 to discuss Cameron’s renegotiation of the U.K.’s membership in the bloc. If they can reach an agreement, a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the union could be held as soon as June.

Opponents of Britain’s membership in the EU dismissed the offer as a failure by Cameron to pursue the U.K’s interests.

“The public don’t want an emergency brake on migrant benefits, they want control of the steering wheel,” Liz Bilney, chief executive officer of Leave.EU, said in an emailed statement. “The Prime Minister’s so-called renegotiations are a fudge, designed to appear as if he has fought the EU and won.”

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