Britain’s prime minister is in Brussels for an EU summit and desperate to secure a new membership deal for his country. Just months away is a referendum that will decide whether Britain leaves the EU permanently and both David Cameron’s government and the voters are split on whether to leave or not. Leaders of the 28 nation bloc have described the summit as the best chance of preventing Britain leaving.
David Cameron wants to limit the benefits migrants can receive once they reach Britain but he’s facing resistance from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He also wants safeguards to protect London’s financial sector from decisions binding the 19 EU members using the Euro, for Britain to be excluded from “ever closer” union and for greater competition within the bloc.
Cameron wants to gain more concessions out of the EU and present it to British voters as a victory and, so he hopes, encourage them to vote to stay in the union.
“If we can get a good deal, I’ll take that deal but I will not take a deal that doesn’t meet what we need. I think it’s much more important to get this right than to do anything in a rush. But with good will, with hard work, we can get a better deal for Britain,” Cameron told reporters as he arrived for the summit.
European Council President Donald Tusk made it clear how just important renegotiating Britain’s membership is: “This is a make or break summit, I have no doubt,” he said.
However the migrant crisis is more important to most EU leaders attending the summit. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hopes he can reassure the bloc that Greece can cope with and document all the migrants arriving on its shores.
But four sceptical eastern European members have floated a fallback policy of ringfencing Greece to keep the migrants they expect to land there from proceeding through Macedonia and Bulgaria to other EU countries.
The massive arrival of refugees and migrants from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa has opened deep rifts within the EU, with members states often ignoring calls from Brussels to share the burden more evenly.
Although migrant arrivals from Turkey have fallen sharply in recent days, many EU members distrust Ankara and worry that the recent drop in arrivals may just be a winter lull.