David Cameron has won the backing of Denmark and the qualified support of Poland for his EU renegotiation as a new poll showed a surge of support in Britain for leaving the European Union. The prime minister spent Friday in Poland and Denmark in an effort to win support for the draft deal published by European Council president Donald Tusk this week.
Denmark's prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he did not expect the deal to be substantially amended before EU leaders meet in Brussels on February 18th. He said Denmark wanted Britain to remain a strong voice in Europe and welcomed the proposal to allow countries like Britain, which has high levels of immigration, to limit welfare payments to EU migrants.
“It creates momentum towards the goal of ensuring that the EU does not develop into a social union. We need to ensure that EU citizens move across borders to work, not to seek a high level of benefits. The package also contains an emergency brake which is specifically designed to handle the particular problems faced by the UK in regard to in-work benefits. That is perfectly understandable and acceptable to us,” Mr Rasmussen said.
Poland's prime minister Beata Szydlo offered support for most of Britain's renegotiation package but suggested that some details of the welfare benefits plan needed to be "ironed out". Mr Cameron also met the leader of the governing Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is widely viewed as a more influential political figure than Ms Szydlo. Mr Kaczynski expressed satisfaction with the proposal to limit welfare payments to new immigrants because they will not affect Poles already living in Britain.
The draft renegotiation deal has been widely criticised in Britain and the first poll since its publication shows a big rise in support for leaving the EU. The YouGov poll for the Times shows 45 per cent supporting leaving compared with 36 per cent against, with 19 per cent undecided. Forty-six per cent think the draft renegotiation deal is bad for Britain, with just 22 per cent saying it is good for it.
European Parliament president Martin Schulz said on Friday that some European partners were relaxed about the prospect of Britain leaving the EU, although he said the EU needed Britain's foreign policy clout and trading prowess.
“This is why personally I am a strong supporter of the UK remaining in EU. And this, despite the fact – and I admit this quite frankly – that the British often test our patience and goodwill with their continuous demands,” he told an audience at the London School of Economics.
“I believe we need the UK to make the EU stronger and better. And to make something stronger and better sometimes it’s necessary to push hard and be critical. They are demanding. They push hard. They insist. They just don’t let go. Many of my colleagues say behind closed doors: ‘Don’t stop a rolling stone. If the Brits want to leave, let them leave.’”