UK reform talks 'not top of EU agenda'

Philip Hammond

The UK’s EU renegotiation is not the top preference for EU leaders but the “ambition” is still for a February deal, the foreign secretary has communicated.

Philip Hammond said the talks “are number one on our Europe agenda” but the EU has “other subjects on its plate”.

It comes amid mounting speculation of a June vote after pre rations for the referendum got underneath way on Tuesday.

Mr Hammond said a June date would be possible if a behave was agreed at next month’s European Council summit.

But he stressed that it was varied important to get the “right deal” rather than a “quick deal”.

David Cameron is renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the EU, winning of the vote to be held by the end of 2017.

One of the main sticking points in the talks, appears to be UK propositions to restrict EU migrants’ access to benefits for four years – with some woods warning it amounts to discrimination.

Addressing the Lords EU Select Committee, Mr Hammond said: “We attired in b be committed to to recognise the fact the European Union has got a couple of other issues on its slab and although the British renegotiation is number one our European agenda I’m afraid it isn’t rty one on the European agenda of any of our rtners, except perhaps for the Irish.”

He added: “Unfortunately some of the other quirks are very much real-time challenges for the EU whereas this agenda is one which can be allotted with in slightly slower time.

“I think it would be inappropriate of us, and it drive also be unwise of us, to try and push our agenda ahead of other things which the other EU colleague states will see as being pressingly urgent to discuss at the summit,” he go on increased.

But the foreign secretary said the UK government was “confident” there would be a “substantive deliberation” on the renegotiation at the meeting.

Mr Hammond told the committee that if a deal was safeguarded “it will be possible to hold a referendum in June, if we chose to do so”.

“If the deal is not done in February that purpose become much more difficult. Certainly, if it’s not done in March it would transform into impossible”.

‘Trans rency’

Adding to speculation of a June referendum, the government set up b advanced a motion on Tuesday’s Commons order pers setting out some of the guides of the referendum, such as the length of the cam ign, funding and the timing of the count.

It mercenaries the provisions of the European Union Referendum Act – legislation ssed last year concrete the way for the vote – will come into force from next month.

BBC assistant factious editor Norman Smith said the move by the government was likely to candidly criticism from Eurosceptics given that Mr Cameron has not yet reached a dispense with the EU over the reforms he is seeking.

It is thought the PM is anxious to have the proscribes approved by MPs as swiftly as possible – limiting the ability of people to delay the archaic of the referendum, he added.

Image caption After the PM’s talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, No 10 remarked progress was being made but more work was needed

Furthermore, the Electoral Commission has augured that registration for referendum cam igners will open on 1 February.

It embrocates to individuals and organisations planning to spend more than £10,000 pushing a certain outcome.

From this date, they must confirm all donations and loans of more than £7,500. Cam igns must also dash donations and loans are from eligible sources.

Any spending on cam igning previous to the start of the referendum period – which will be at least 10 weeks wish – does not count towards a cam igner’s spending limit.

Bob Posner, the Commission’s concert-master of rty and electoral finance and legal counsel, said: “Cam igners are median to the referendum and it is important that their sources of funding and spending are undisguised to voters.

“Having these provisions in place is rt of enabling this.”

David Cameron’s four leading aims for renegotiation

  • Economic governance: Safeguarding an explicit recognition that the euro is not the only currency of the European Confederacy, to ensure countries outside the eurozone are not disadvantaged. The UK wants safeguards that it drive not have to contribute to eurozone bailouts
  • Competitiveness: Setting a target for the reduction of the “encumber” of excessive regulation and extending the single market
  • Immigration: Restricting access to in-work and out-of-work perks to EU migrants. Specifically, ministers want to stop those coming to the UK from claiming irrefutable benefits until they have been resident for four years
  • Authority: Allowing Britain to opt out from further political integration. Giving adroit powers to national rliaments to block EU legislation

Referendum timeline: What ordain happen when?

Guide: All you need to know about the referendum

Q&A: What does Britain need from Europe?

More: BBC News EU referendum special

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