ANKARA – (AA) British Prime Minister David Cameron is prepared to launch the referendum on the U.K.’s membership in the European Union ahead of changes in the organization’s founding treaty that would be required for the reforms he is seeking.
Downing Street told the press late Thursday that too much time would be required to make the treaty changes before the timing of the in-out referendum in 2017.
Cameron is now seeking a “legally binding” agreement, the statement from number 10 said, before running the referendum.
The statement was made after Cameron discussed his plans for reform with EU leaders at a summit Thursday.
At the summit, European Council President Donald Tusk agreed to initiate technical discussions on the treaty changes, with a meeting of leaders to review progress in December.
But Tusk, after the meeting, warned of resistance to the proposals: “Today we will only start this process. However, one thing should be clear from the very beginning: the fundamental values of the European Union are not for sale and so are non-negotiable,” he told the press.
Cameron has made clear where he is seeking change.
He has stated for instance that he wants EU migrants to the U.K. to wait four years before claiming in-work benefits. He has also proposed a protection for non-eurozone countries in their dealings with the EU, so that they cannot simply be voted out by member states. He also wants to ensure that the U.K. will not be forced into a greater social union with the EU.
Martin Schulz, the president of the EU parliament, has expressed concern that Cameron will be pushed by his backbenchers into taking too hard a line on reforms.
He urged Cameron to make the British people as his audience in considering reforms, and not his Tory party.
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