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48 hours to Brexit? Cameron struggles to secure deal to stay in EU

Prime Minister David Cameron was engaged in last-minute talks before the European Council meets on Thursday and Friday to approve – or not – the controversial deal offered to Britain to stay in the European Union.

world Updated: Feb 17, 2016 19:24 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in London for the House of Commons to prepare for Prime Minister's Questions.
Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in London for the House of Commons to prepare for Prime Minister's Questions.(AP)

Prime Minister David Cameron was engaged in last-minute talks before the European Council meets on Thursday and Friday to approve – or not – the controversial deal offered to Britain to stay in the European Union.

If the council approves the deal offered by its president Donald Tusk a fortnight ago, Cameron is expected to convene an emergency meeting of his cabinet on Friday and announce the date of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

If it does not, or if the perception is that Cameron agreed to a watered down deal (there are already charges the deal is not good enough for Britain), the momentum for the “Leave EU” campaign will grow before the key referendum.

The issue of Britain’s membership is important for India and the more than 800 Indian companies who use their base in London and other parts of Britain as a gateway to Europe. A vote to leave the EU will have implications for their continued presence in Britain.

There are several misgivings among EU member-states on the deal offered to Britain, particularly on state benefits for migrants who move to Britain. Cameron wants to stop or limit child benefit, among others, considered generous due to the strength of the pound.

Poland and three other countries are reported to be resisting the benefits curbs, and France is said to be against financial regulation changes that would benefit Britain, which has retained the pound and not opted for the Euro currency.

June 23 is said to be most likely date for the referendum if Cameron were to secure a deal in the European Council summit. He is keen to have London Mayor Boris Johnson in the “Remain in EU” camp, but the latter is yet undecided on the In/Out issue.

On Tuesday, European parliament president Martin Schulz warned the support of members of the European parliament (MEP) for the deal could not be guaranteed, but Downing Street claimed the deal had the backing of MEPs.

There are strong arguments being put forward by both camps and campaigning will begin in right earnest after the outcome of the European Council summit in the next 48 hours.