EU Council chief Donald Tusk on Tuesday said leaders would need to walk an “extra mile” to reach a deal at a crunch summit this week as Britain’s David Cameron fended off changes to a draft deal he has cut to keep his country in the EU.
Tusk, who presented the draft proposal two weeks ago and will chair the February 17-8 summit, said there were still issues to be addressed to prevent a British exit from the 28-member block – a prospect referred to as “Brexit”.
Speaking after talks with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in Prague, the Europeon Council chief said solutions had to be found on several issues, including a controversial “emergency break” that would allow Britain to withhold social benefits from foreign EU workers.
"At stake is the United Kingdom as member of the EU,” Tusk told reporters. “A question which ultimately only the British people will decide, but whose answer will affect us all.”
His comments came as the British prime minister met EU executive chief Jean-Claude Juncker and leaders of the EU legislature to drum up support for the draft deal.
Cameron made no public comments during his stay in Brussels and one person who met him said he appeared “very stressed”.
The British leader has promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership and has made it clear to his counterparts in Europe that he needs a deal sweet enough to sell to the British public.
Sources close to the negotiations say British diplomats and officials have been defending Tusk's draft against efforts by others to chip away at Britain's perceived gains.
Eastern Europeans, whose citizens are most likely to be hit by a new "emergency brake" to discriminate against foreign EU workers, are pushing to limit how long Britain might exercise that right.
Britain also wants to be excused from closer political integration and seeks guarantees its banks will not be discriminated against by the euro zone.
The latter demand has raised concern in France that British banks would benefit from lighter local regulatory constraints.
On Tuesday, EU parliamentarians warned that cutting special deals for London could encourage others to seek favours.
"It's Pandora's box," one parliamentary official said of the prospect of the 750-seat legislature getting to grips after the British referendum with redrafting laws to benefit London. "The parliament is unpredictable. It can be monkeys with guns."
Whatever deal national leaders conclude this week, the parliament’s German president said he could not guarantee European deputies would deliver the necessary legislation, notably on welfare benefits.
"This is not possible in a democracy," Martin Schulz said after meeting Cameron, though he also pointed out that parliament has “no veto” over the accord.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2016-02-16