Brexit issues still not settled

Envoys from the EU’s 28 governments failed to bridge remaining differences over changes to the UK’s terms of membership, underscoring the political stakes in the run-up to a meeting of the bloc’s national leaders next week.

While the diplomats meeting in Brussels yesterday made progress on technical and legal clarifications of the text published earlier this month, the main political items are still not settled, an EU official said on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

British prime minister David Cameron needs approval from every other national leader in the EU for a deal at the February 18-19 summit in Brussels.

That would pave the way for him to hold a referendum on staying in the bloc as early as June 23.

Since the EU published its response to the UK’s demands, Mr Cameron and the EU’s top officials have engaged in an intense round of diplomacy to win support and help secure Britain’s place in the bloc.

EU president Donald Tusk will continue that push next week when he travels to Paris, Berlin, Bucharest, Athens, and Prague.

If agreed, the settlement would restrict welfare benefits to non-British EU nationals in the UK, shield Britain’s financial industry and grant more powers to national parliaments across the bloc.

Mr Tusk and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker are taking advantage of yesterday’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels to discuss the UK negotiations with Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem and ECB executive board member Benoit Coeure.


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