BRITISH prime minister David Cameron is being offered an “emergency brake” that would mean EU migrants can be barred from claiming benefits for four years when public services are under strain, it has been claimed.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is set to give details of the proposal when the two men hold talks on Britain’s membership renegotiation in Brussels tomorrow, according to Reuters.
It is not clear whether EU officials would need to give permission for the mechanism to be used.
The idea, which Mr Cameron is also thought to have discussed with his Czech counterpart in Prague last week, has apparently gained traction as the British prime minster struggles to finalise a deal in time for a key summit next month.
Mr Cameron cancelled a visit to Copenhagen tomorrow in order to meet Mr Juncker in Brussels, and is due to have a working dinner with European Council president Donald Tusk in Downing Street over the weekend.
Mr Cameron will then fly to Hamburg on February 12, where he will have the opportunity to discuss his plans with German chancellor Angela Merkel as he delivers a speech on EU reform to the annual St Matthew’s Day banquet.
Mr Tusk is due to publish “concrete proposals” for dealing with the UK’s demands within the next couple of weeks, ahead of a crunch summit on February 18-19 at which Mr Cameron hopes to secure agreement with the 27 other EU leaders on a package of reforms.
Downing Street has denied that the flurry of meetings were an indication of concern within Number 10 that the PM’s timetable for an in/out referendum – dubbed ‘Brexit’ – may be slipping.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has admitted that a referendum this summer will be difficult if no deal is struck at the February summit, and “impossible” if it is not agreed at the following meeting in March.