David Cameron hurries to Brussels for Brexit talks

Unplanned visit by British PM comes just days ahead of expected reform package draft

Prime Minister David Cameron cancels a visit to Sweden and Denmark. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/WPA Pool /Getty Image

Prime Minister David Cameron cancels a visit to Sweden and Denmark. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/WPA Pool /Getty Image

 
David CameronEuropean Commission

The unplanned visit comes as Mr Cameron cancelled a visit to Sweden and Denmark to discuss his renegotiation bid. Instead he will speak to the Swedish and Danish leaders by phone, as he focuses his political energy on Brussels.

Ambassadors representing the other 27 EU member states, together with their leaders’ top advisers, are waiting to receive a legal text by the end of next week expected to outline the basis for a revised British relationship with the EU ahead of a referendum on the UK’s membership.

Meeting with Tusk

European CouncilDonald Tusk

Mr Cameron has indicated in recent weeks he is prepared to delay agreement if he does not secure the changes needed. Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, the British leader said he was in no rush for a deal.

“I’m not in a hurry. I can hold my referendum at any time before the end of 2017. It is much more important to get this right, rather than rush it,” the prime minister said.

Referendum date

British foreign secretary Philip Hammond has said it would be difficult to hold a referendum before the summer if no deal is struck in February and “impossible” if it is not agreed at the following meeting in March. However, the European Council could convene an extra summit if needed.

There may be calls from some member states to add the migration crisis to the February summit’s agenda.

One senior EU official said that, while there was political will to give the British leader a deal he could sell to his public, the legal negotiations were highly complex. “There is still a lot of work to do in a very limited time scale,” he said.

Mr Cameron’s renegotiation demands fall into four categories: improving competitiveness, more powers for national government, a redefinition of the relationship between euro and non-euro countries, and curbs to in-house benefits for EU migrants.