Prime Minister David Cameron said he would unveil his long-awaited EU renegotiation demands early next month, amid growing impatience from his European partners.
Cameron will lay out the demands in a letter to EU president Donald Tusk in November, ahead of a major discussion on his plans with fellow European leaders in December.
Speaking after talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, Cameron said the negotiations ahead of a referendum that he has promised by the end of 2017 were going well.
“The pace will now quicken and I will be again setting out the four vital areas where we need change, laying down what those changes will be at the start of November,” Cameron told reporters.
“So we quicken the pace and quicken those negotiations in the run-up to the December council.”
He added: “I am confident we can get a good deal for Britain, we can fix those things that need to be fixed, and I am confident this process is getting well under way and making good progress.”
So far Cameron has only said 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.
An official said Cameron would unveil the plans in a letter he will send in early November to Tusk, the head of the European Council. “It will lay down the changes we want to see,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The letter to Tusk would be made public, another official said. Cameron also discussed his demands at a summit of 27 EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.
He briefly told the leaders of his plans but there was “no further engagement” by his colleagues, an EU source said.
Tusk told a press conference after the summit that he briefed EU leaders on the discussions he had with Britain over the last few months.
“We welcomed Prime Minister Cameron’s commitment to set out the UK’s specific concerns in writing by early November,” Tusk said.
Standing with Tusk, Juncker said the pair had had “a polite, constructive meeting with Cameron.”
There has been increasing frustration at Cameron’s refusal to spell out exactly what he wants despite the launch of technical talks with the EU in June.
EU diplomats said this week that if Cameron did set out his stall by early November, the discussion would have to be pushed back from the December summit until March.
“We need clarity on what we’re going to be discussing over the next few months,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz said.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said EU leaders had repeatedly asked for more details so that negotiations could start, adding: “I still do not know what Cameron wants and hopes for.”
Juncker said on Wednesday that it “takes two to tango” and urged Britain to make its plans clear.
Cameron has still not set a date for the referendum. One European official said he expected it in October 2016.
The prime minister has reportedly been unwilling to set out his demands too early in case they are savaged by eurosceptics in Britain, while at the same time he has been trying to make sure the goals are achievable in Europe.
It has now been two-and-a-half years since the premier announced his intention to seek reforms of the EU and then hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s EU membership.
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