Prime Minister David Cameron, who is negotiating with Britain’s EU partners on its conditions of membership, is aiming for a deal at an EU summit in December, European Council President Donald Tusk has said.
“If he is ready to take this risk, I will be helpful. But then, it would be his risk,” Tusk was quoted as saying in an interview with the Guardian and five other European newspapers published today.
“If Cameron is sure December is better for him as the organiser of this referendum, I will be helpful and I am ready to convince our officials,” Tusk said.
But he warned the legal aspect of any renegotiation deal would be “very difficult” because of EU treaty rules and said : “We need some compromise when it comes to substance”.
Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership by the end of 2017 but senior officials expect the vote to be held next year.
Tusk said he was initially aiming for the negotiation to take place at an EU summit in February but was now ready to go with Cameron’s timetable.
“The first political priority is obviously to help Cameron to win the referendum,” he said.
“It means that I really cooperate very closely with David Cameron also when it comes to the question of the timing. I have no doubt that the first goal must be to keep the UK in the EU,” he added.
Cameron last month laid out a list of demands for European leaders in a bid to cut migration from other parts of Europe, ensure greater “fairness” for non-eurozone members and sovereignty issues including an exemption from the EU goal of ever-closer union.
He said the referendum was a “once-in-a-generation” choice and warned he could call for Britain to leave the group if he does not get his way on the reforms.