Britain may not unveil EU demands until next year: sources

14th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron may be forced to push back the unveiling of his long-awaited European Union renegotiation demands until early next year, EU sources said Wednesday.

Cameron is currently due to present his formal reform list to the EU's 28 leaders at a summit in December, ahead of a referendum on Britain's membership of the bloc due by the end of 2017.

But his impatient European partners have said Cameron must give them an outline of the plans by early November at the latest if he wants the December summit discussion to go ahead.

"There are doubts we can finish the discussion in December. Maybe the European Council (summit) of March can be a realistic date, with then a referendum in the UK in October" 2016, a European diplomat said.

"Now it's time to say what they want -- we want to be helpful. So far they have been reluctant."

Technical talks between British and European officials which began in June to prepare the ground for Cameron's formal demands had now "reached their limits" and needed to move to the political phase, another EU source said.

"It's unsure December will be the big discussion as planned," the EU source said.

"We need to have something by the beginning of November at the latest -- we need proposals on the table so member states know what they are actually looking at."

It has now been two-and-a-half years since the British premier announced his plans to seek reforms of the EU and then hold an in-out referendum on Britain's membership of the 28-nation club.

Officials say the demands will cover four general areas: an opt-out from the bloc's drive for an "ever-closer union"; economic competitiveness; protecting countries that are not in the euro; and curbing welfare for EU migrants to Britain.

But Cameron's refusal to set out his demands in full has frustrated his European partners.

Cameron is due to have lunch with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday when they will discuss what progress has been made in the technical talks.

But Juncker said Wednesday there had not been "huge progress" so far.

"I can't say a huge progress has been achieved... but to tango it takes two," Juncker told the European Parliament.

"And I am not a splendid dancer but at least I know the rules that have to be observed by others, and it needs two to tango. So we have to dance and our British friends have to dance."

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© 2015 AFP

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