David Cameron has dropped his plans to sign off his renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with Europe at the December European Council summit, accepting that he’s not going to get the deal he wants within the next few weeks. In a call today with Angela Merkel, the Prime Minister ‘noted that the scale of what we are asking for means we will not resolve this in one go and consequently he did not expect to get agreement at the December European Council’, a Downing Street spokesperson said. The summit will instead involve a ‘substantive discussion of the proposed changes in each area’. Downing Street also said that ‘there remain difficult issues to resolve’ before a settlement that manages to ‘address the concerns of the British people’.
This is an admission, finally, that Cameron’s renegotiation plan is not on track, and that he isn’t getting what he wants from leaders. They had complained that they didn’t know what he wanted from them, but he tried to address this in November with his speech on his demands for reform. Perhaps this was a little too late to stop the timetable slipping, though.
Downing Street is now briefing that February is the more likely time for the deal to be signed off. Cameron had claimed earlier in the autumn that ‘the pace will now quicken’ for the renegotiation. But it appears to be slowing down again.
Here is the full statement from Downing Street:
The Prime Minister called the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, this morning to talk about the renegotiation of the UK's membership of the EU ahead of the December European Council.
They discussed the significant and far-reaching reforms that the Prime Minister has proposed to address the concerns of the British people. They agreed that good progress had been made since the Prime Minister's letter to the President of the European Council but that there remain difficult issues to resolve.
The Prime Minister explained that his priority is to get the substance right, underlining the need for legally binding, irreversible changes. He noted that the scale of what we are asking for means we will not resolve this in one go and consequently he did not expect to get agreement at the December European Council. Instead, we should keep up the pace of discussions and use the summit for a substantive discussion of the proposed changes in each area. Chancellor Merkel agreed with this approach, emphasising her commitment to finding solutions that will address the concerns of the British people.
They also discussed the need to destroy Daesh and to secure agreement on a political solution in Syria. The Prime Minister welcomed Germany's decision to commit troops and equipment to support the coalition's efforts and the Chancellor congratulated Prime Minister on the outcome of yesterday’s vote to extend airstrikes to Syria, noting it was impressive that we had already carried out targeted strikes on Daesh's oil resources.