Cameron insists he has been ‘consistent’ in EU talks

British prime minister promises to quicken pace of discussions at Reykjavik meeting

David Cameron promised to step up the pace of Britain's negotiations on its membership of the European Union and rejected claims he has failed to make clear to other EU leaders what he is looking for. Speaking in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, at a meeting of leaders from a number of northern European countries, the British prime minister said the EU talks were going well.

“Now the pace will quicken with a letter I’ll be writing to the council president at the beginning of November. But these are quite big changes that I think are necessary not just for Britain, but also for others in the European Union and, indeed, for those outside the European Union,” he said.

“I’m confident we will make good progress and very confident after the discussion we had last night that we will take this forward and succeed.”

British and EU officials have been engaged in technical talks about a possible reform package since June, but the leaders of Estonia and Finland this week said Mr Cameron had so far failed to come forward with concrete proposals. The prime minister declined to say yesterday whether Britain would be better off inside or outside the EU but claimed he had been consistent and clear in what he wanted from the negotiations.


"My job as prime minister is to get the best deal for Britain in Europe, to make sure we have the best of both worlds. And so that's what I'm doing by setting out very clearly the things that need to change; on sovereignty, on competitiveness, on fairness between euro ins and outs, on migration and welfare – I've been very consistent," he said.

Mr Cameron’s official position is that he will recommend a vote to remain part of the EU only if he secures a significant package of reforms. But in recent days he has adopted an increasingly pro-EU tone, deriding the idea that Norway’s relationship with the EU could be a good model for Britain.

Norway is outside the EU but it is part of the European Economic Area, so it has access to the EU's single market. Mr Cameron reminded the House of Commons that Norway had to pay for access to EU markets and had no say in setting the rules. "I do think it's important . . . that we're very clear about the facts and figures about the alternatives.

No seat

“Norway actually pays as much per head to the EU as we do. They actually take twice as many per-head migrants as we do in this country. But of course they have no seat at the table, no ability to negotiate.”

Norway's prime minister, Erna Solberg, who would like her country to join the EU, said she would not recommend the Norwegian model to Britain. But Eurosceptics said Mr Cameron's decision to go on the offensive about Britain's limited options outside the EU was evidence he had given up hope of returning from Brussels with a deal promising real change.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times