EU Chief Releases Proposals to Keep Britain in EU
BRUSSELS – European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday unveiled proposals that he hopes will keep Britain in the 28-nation European Union.
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.
“To my mind it goes really far in addressing all the concerns raised by Prime Minister (David) Cameron,” Tusk wrote. “The line I did not cross, however, were the principles on which the European project is founded.”
Tusk proposed that more power be given to national parliaments to potentially block legislation. The plan would not bind Britain to deeper EU integration, which is written into the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.
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 maneuver 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 balance 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 weighs heavily on the bloc.