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EU referendum: Cameron to face MPs over reform deal – BBC News

David Cameron is stepping up efforts to sell his EU reform deal amid reports several cabinet ministers are ready to campaign for Britain’s exit.

The prime minister will make a Commons statement on the package aimed at keeping the UK in the 28 nation bloc.

He claims it delivers “substantial” reforms but one unnamed minister described it to the BBC as a “mess”.

Downing Street says ministers have agreed not to challenge Mr Cameron until he has secured a final deal.

He is aiming to get agreement from all member states at a summit in Brussels in a fortnight, paving the way for a referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EU in June.

But the BBC understands several Eurosceptic ministers are discussing whether to break ranks before Mr Cameron announces the date of a referendum.

London Mayor Boris Johnson expressed doubts about the draft EU deal on Tuesday, saying it would be better if the UK had its own powers to block EU laws, rather than having to rely on the support of other member states.

Asked on Wednesday if he had changed his view, he said: “The PM is making the best of a bad job. But I regret to inform you that my position is still what it was yesterday morning.

“But let’s wait and see when this whole thing is agreed and try and see what it really means – every bit of it.”

After weeks of speculation about David Cameron’s talks over the UK’s relationship with Brussels, the papers finally get to assess the full package of proposed reforms.

“EU chief Donald Tusk saw him coming,” the Sun says. The Daily Express is also scathing saying: “The only good thing that can be said for his efforts is that they clear the way for a referendum this summer. We say bring it on.”

The Mirror argues there is a “good case” for Britain staying in the EU but that Mr Cameron “isn’t communicating it when he’s more interested in presentation than substance”.

But the PM wins support from the Financial Times, which says: “For all the criticism, Mr Cameron looks set to secure a reasonable deal for Britain. In each of the areas where he has sought reform, the prime minister has made tangible progress”.

Commons leader Chris Grayling asked the prime minister at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting if he could campaign to leave the EU now but his request was rejected, the BBC’s James Landale reports.

A cabinet source said Mr Grayling spent the meeting getting increasingly wound up, unfolding and folding his arms, as the EU was being discussed until he raised the question of collective cabinet responsibility.

Mr Cameron has said ministers will be free to campaign for whichever side they want, in a personal capacity, but the government would not be remaining neutral.

“If we get this deal in February or in March or later and if the cabinet agrees to this deal the government’s position will be to campaign for Britain to stay in a reformed European Union,” the prime minister said on Tuesday.

‘Handbrake turn’

He said Britain could have the “best of both worlds” by giving it access to the single market and a voice around the top EU table, while retaining its status as a “proud independent country not part of a superstate”.

But critics said the draft deal, thrashed out with European Council President, Donald Tusk, fell far short of what Mr Cameron had originally promised.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said it was “hardly worth the wait” and “really rather pathetic,” adding that it had “no treaty change, no powers returned, and no control of our borders”.

In a speech to the European Parliament, he said he found it “humiliating” to see a British prime minister journey to Brussels, like Dickens character Oliver Twist, asking fellow EU leaders for “some more”.

He told MEPs that, given what he initially aimed to achieve, the prime minister’s “emergency brake” on welfare benefits was “more of a handbrake turn”.

“It’s people power that will win this referendum, and after this referendum I hope in many other countries too,” he added.

Eurosceptics are hoping to land a big Conservative name – such as Theresa May or Boris Johnson – to front the campaign to get Britain out of the EU.

Former defence secretary Liam Fox said he was “certain” four or five cabinet ministers would eventually join the campaign to leave, adding that the offer on the table meant that “what we can get, at best, is better membership of the wrong club”.

Mrs May has released a statement saying the reform proposals announced on Tuesday provided “a basis for a deal”.

She said it was “encouraging” that key UK concerns about the “abuse” of EU free movement rules and the use of European law to block the deportation of foreign criminals were being addressed.

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday it would be better if the UK had its own powers to block EU laws, rather than having to rely on the support of other member states.

Asked on Wednesday if he had changed his view, he said: “The PM is making the best of a bad job.

“But I regret to inform you that my position is still what it was yesterday morning.

“But let’s wait and see when this whole thing is agreed and try and see what it really means – every bit of it.”

In-work benefits

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker talked up the draft deal in a speech to the European Parliament, saying: “The settlement recognises this – it recognises that if the United Kingdom considered that it is now at the limit of its level of integration then that is fine.

“At the same time it makes clear that other member states can move towards a deeper degree of integration as they see fit. In this way we have addressed the prime minister’s concern while respecting the treaties.”

The draft deal includes an “emergency brake” to restrict in-work benefits for EU migrants. But it would have to be agreed by other EU nations and it would be “graduated”, with more money from tax credits paid to migrants the longer they remain in the UK.

The draft says Mr Cameron’s demand to exempt Britain from the EU principle of “ever closer union” between member states would be written into a future treaty, and there are also measures relating to protection for non-euro countries in the EU, a new way for member states to club together to block some new EU laws and on business regulations.(BBC News)

LInk: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35479506

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