President of the European Council Donald Tusk has labelled talks to renegotiate UK membership to the European Union a “make or break moment.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron outlined four so-called baskets – or issues for change – during a dinner at the final EU summit of the year.
He said “really good progress” had been made, but admitted a difficult path lies ahead.
Tusk acknowledged the difficulty of renegotiating Britain’s membership to avoid a Brexit from the EU, but announced the Council had “agreed to work together to find mutually satisfactory solutions in all the four areas.”
“Leaders voiced their concerns, but also demonstrated (a) willingness to look for compromises,” he said. “Building on this positive debate, we agreed to act together to find solutions in all four baskets raised by Prime Minister Cameron. Hard work on all baskets is still ahead of us.”
This will be discussed at a European Council meeting from February 18-19, 2016.
The main issue up for debate is the prime minister’s plan to prevent EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits for their first four years in Britain.
“I would say the good news is that there is a pathway to an agreement,” Cameron acknowledged. “And I’m confident of that after the discussion we had. But the truth is this: it will be very hard work. Not just hard work on welfare, but actually hard work on all of the issues.”
EU border and coastguard force
European leaders also pledged to speed up the establishment of an EU border and coastguard force and once more pushed for the wider implementation of measures to curb migration across the Mediterranean.
Details of the border agency will be agreed on by the middle of 2016.
With border control high on the agenda, Cameron called on leaders to help him to reduce migration numbers.
Cameron claims the “unprecedented” influx of migrants is “undermining support for the European Union” among British citizens.
Cameron also pushed for improved business competitiveness, giving more sovereignty back to Britain and protecting London’s banks from euro zone discrimination.
The PM has promised a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017, although there have been indications the vote could be held in 2016.
The latest YouGov and Ipsos polls suggest the pro- and anti-Brexit camps are currently neck and neck (up to November, 2015).