EU leaders agree to 'look for compromise' on British demands: Tusk

Published Thu, Dec 17, 2015 · 11:59 PM

[BRUSSELS] EU leaders agreed to look for a compromise on British Prime Minister David Cameron's controversial reform demands after a summit on Thursday, the bloc's president Donald Tusk said.

"Leaders voiced their concerns but also demonstrated willingness to look for compromise," Tusk told a press conference, adding that he was "much more optimistic" than before the discussion.

Cameron's key demand is that EU migrants in Britain must live there for at least four years before they can get welfare benefits but his peers says this is discriminatory and undercuts the core EU principle of free movement.

Asked whether the prime minister now understood this was a red line for his EU counterparts, Tusk said: "For me, the clearest message is that ... no one, including David Cameron, is ready to accept discrimination." He stressed that the atmosphere over a summit dinner was good and said the discussions had made "significant progress." But "we have to be sure that we have to be tough on some red lines and fundamentals," he said.

"We will not give up on free movement." Among other demands, Cameron wants Brussels to ensure greater protection for non-eurozone member states, an exemption from the EU's goal of "ever closer union" and greater economic competitiveness but these three issues are much less controversial than his migrant welfare limit.

Powerful German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made clear she has serious reservations over Cameron's demand while east European members such as Poland and Hungary who have hundreds of thousands of workers in Britain, are strongly opposed.

Cameron says that if gets the changes he wants from Brussels, he will campaign for a 'Yes' vote on Britain's membership in a referendum he has promised by 2017.

If he fails, he says "all options are open."



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