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Cameron: Britain’s place in the EU has been ‘allowed to fester for too long’

18 February 2016

7:24 PM

18 February 2016

7:24 PM

This is from tonight’s Evening Blend, a free email round-up and analysis of the day’s events. Subscribe for free here.

Good evening from the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, where David Cameron is tonight trying to persuade European leaders of the merits of his renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU. For a deal that has underwhelmed almost everybody in Britain, it’s taking a remarkably long time to sign off. A working session, in which the Prime Minister told leaders that this was the ‘opportunity to settle this issue for a generation’, has just broken up, and talks on the migration crisis are starting over dinner.


Cameron told leaders that ‘the question of Britain’s place in Europe has been allowed to fester for too long’. He then added that ‘if we can reach an agreement strong enough to persuade the British people to support it’, then the matter could be resolved.

One of the issues that is being addressed this evening is that of ever closer union, with Cameron pushing for a ‘live and let live’ arrangement that will allow the countries who wish to pursue greater integration to do that, but for the others to be able to opt out. The British delegation seems to be in a bullish mood, not aggressive as though things aren’t quite going its way, but definitely optimistic about what it can achieve, particularly on migrant benefits, which is interesting.

As the night wears on – and it looks as though it is going to be a long night – there will be more briefings on what has been secured and what’s still in the square brackets.

These square brackets are the areas that are still up for agreement, and there need to be no brackets left for European leaders to reach a deal. After the working dinner, the Prime Minister and Donald Tusk will have another bilateral session and then it isn’t clear whether Cameron plans to stay up all night to try to seal the deal, or whether Tusk will continue without him, with the Prime Minister returning for the morning sessions. We’ll have constant updates throughout the night on Coffee House.


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