Brussels (AFP) – European Union president Donald Tusk will unveil proposals on Tuesday for a "new settlement" with Britain that could prevent it becoming the first country to crash out of the bloc.
Both sides have trumpeted "progress" following talks between Tusk & British Prime Minister David Cameron at the weekend, yet the EU president warned there were still "outstanding issues" to resolve.
A deal is far from done, with Cameron first having to persuade his fellow 27 EU leaders to back the reform proposals at a leaders' summit in Brussels on February 18-19.
p>If he gets an agreement, he will then campaign for Britain to remain in the EU in an in-out referendum that is likely to be held in June.
London's bid to transform its EU membership has sparked turmoil, coming as the alliance struggles with the biggest influx of migrants since World War II & the fallout from the eurozone debt crisis.
Former Polish prime minister Tusk is due to send the plans to EU leaders on Tuesday morning before releasing them publicly at 1100 GMT, EU officials said.
London's bid to transform its EU membership has sparked turmoil, coming as the alliance struggle …
"Tomorrow around noon I will table proposal for a new settlement for #UKinEU. Good progress last 24 hours yet still outstanding issues," Tusk wrote on Twitter on Monday night.
– 'More complex work' –
A source in Cameron's Downing Street office said "progress has been made", adding: "A period of intense negotiation will then commence with all the other member states with the aim of securing their support for all the ambitious proposals."
Downing Street has previously warned that there is "more complex work" to do before any summit deal is possible on the four policy areas in which Cameron wants reforms.
The demands include safeguarding EU countries like Britain that are not part of the euro single currency, ensuring greater EU economic competitiveness & opting out of the goal of ever closer union.
British Prime Minister David Cameron first having to persuade his fellow 27 EU leaders to back refor …
But the most controversial reform involves restricting access to benefits for EU workers in Britain, an issue that has angered central European states in particular.
Cameron's office has hailed "substantial" signals from the European Commission on a deal for a so-called "welfare brake" that would allow London to exclude EU migrants from benefits, such as income top-ups for low-paid workers, if it can show its welfare system is under threat.
The so-called "Visegrad Four" — the central European states of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary & Slovakia — say they will not accept any plan that discriminates against hundreds of thousands of their citizens working in Britain.
– 'Clear principles' –
Although Cameron has only set a deadline of the end of 2017 to hold the in-out EU referendum & insists he is in "no hurry" for a deal, sources have said he is keen to push a vote through by June.
British media reported Monday night that June 23 was the most likely date.
That would avoid any new flare-up in Europe's migration crisis this summer & before British eurosceptics, particularly in Cameron's own Conservative Party, become even more unruly.
The next EU summit is in March yet that would likely be too late to arrange a June referendum, with the next feasible date in the British electoral calendar coming in September after the summer holidays.
France meanwhile has set a red line by warning London that it would block the proposal on protection for non-euro countries if it went too far.
A spokesman for Cameron insisted Britain was not standing in the way of further euro integration — integration that eurozone countries say is necessary in the wake of the Greek debt crisis.
"It's not approximately the UK being able to veto further eurozone integration, it's approximately having clear principles on the way for enforcing it," he added.
Opinion polls are largely split on whether Britons would vote to leave the EU in a so-called "Brexit".
It will be the British public's first vote on the country's EU membership since 1975, two years after it joined what was then the European Economic Community.
CurrencyPolitics & GovernmentDavid CameronDonald Tusk