BRUSSELS – British Prime Minister David Cameron told European Union leaders Thursday he will soon lay out detailed proposals for the reform of the EU that will ensure his support for the country’s continued membership of the bloc in a national vote due sometime in the next couple of years.
Facing criticism and frustration from EU institutions and member states over his government’s lack of reform details, Cameron said his proposals would be clear by the start of November. He promised that he will “quicken the pace” of those negotiations in the run-up to a December summit of EU leaders where Britain’s membership will take centre stage.
“I am confident we can get a good deal for Britain, fix those things that need to be fixed,” Cameron said following a lunch with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the 28-country EU by the end of 2017. A referendum pledge on so-called Brexit was a central pillar of his Conservative Party victory in May’s general election, partly as a means to keep a lid on support for the UK Independence Party which aims to get Britain out of the EU, even after a renegotiation.
So far, his aspirations have been vague beyond talk of clamping down on immigration via changes to social policy, and making sure safeguards are put in place so that the 19 eurozone countries can’t act as a single bloc to impose measures on non-euro members such as Britain.
Several EU countries have said they want the proposals clearly written out so serious negotiations can begin.
“Now, I still don’t know what he wants or what he hopes for. I hope I will have more information tonight,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said.
Though British criticism of the EU and how it sometimes overrides national decision-making has been a feature since the country joined in 1973, EU leaders have been almost unanimous in their support to keep Britain in the union — provided its demands are not excessive and don’t encourage others within Europe to seek their own changes.
EU Parliament President Martin Schulz said that “above all, we need clarity on what we will be discussing over the next few months.”
Following Thursday’s summit, Cameron is expected to continue bilateral meetings with fellow leaders.
Talks so far have been held by lower-level technical delegates and have yet to reach the highest political spheres.