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Britain/EU deal could be struck in weeks

Friday, January 15, 2016 - 01:36

The British foreign minister and a senior EU official involved in negotiations to help keep Britain in the European Union have both said that a deal was taking shape that could be struck within weeks. Sarah Charlton reports.

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David Cameron might be getting closer to reforming Britain's membership of the EU. UK and EU officials telling Reuters that agreement could be just weeks away. That would pave the way for a British referendum on whether to stay in the bloc as early as June. Of all Cameron's demands, Reuters Brussels bureau chief Alastair MacDonald says the sticking point is clear: SOUNDBITE: Reuters Brussels Bureau Chief Alastair MacDonald, saying (English): "The trickiest one by common consent is a demand by Britain to be able to delay the length of time that workers from different parts of the EU must work before they can claim benefits that British workers do. This is seen as being potentially a breach of rules against discriminating against EU citizens." Polls show that Britons are almost evenly divided over whether to stay in the EU. Cameron's own Conservative Party also split, with different ministers likely to campaign for and against an exit. Sceptics say any reforms will be cosmetic. But European officials insist that's not true: SOUNDBITE: Reuters Brussels Bureau Chief Alastair MacDonald, saying (English): "The European Commission point man on this told the European Parliament that they would be changes and reforms that would be available to other countries as well. They concern, for example, the relationship between the euro zone, which concerns 19 of the 28 members, and those countries that do not yet use the euro." Speaking late Thursday, UK finance minister George Osborne called the coming referendum a once in a lifetime event. He says there would be no way to reverse a vote to leave the EU. Right now, an awful lot hangs on some back-room talks in Brussels.

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Britain/EU deal could be struck in weeks

Friday, January 15, 2016 - 01:36