David Cameron says he is delighted the process of “reform and renegotiation” of the UK’s membership of the EU is “properly under way”.
The PM was speaking in the early hours after formally setting out his aims to EU counterparts in Brussels.
The European Council’s Donald Tusk said there was a will to help the UK.
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However Mr Tusk, who is overseeing the membership negotiations, added that basic values, such as freedom of movement to live and work within the EU, “were not for sale”.
Detailed discussions would now begin in earnest, he added, with EU leaders next considering the matter in December.
‘Safe for all’
Mr Cameron wants to reform the UK’s membership of the EU before holding an in/out referendum of the British public by the end of 2017.
The prime minister, who is under pressure from his Conservative backbenchers to deliver a far-reaching and lasting deal, has not set out in full detail what he wants but his key demands include:
- An opt-out on the core EU aim of “ever closer union”
- The sovereignty of national parliaments to be boosted, so groups of them can block proposed EU legislation
- Safeguard the City of London and other financial centres outside the eurozone
- Curb EU immigration by cutting benefits
- Make the EU more streamlined and competitive
To get what it wants the UK believes it will need to rewrite treaties agreed by all 28 EU members.
Downing Street has said the prime minister remains committed to “proper, full-on treaty change” but it has acknowledged this is unlikely by the end of 2017 since it would trigger referendums in other EU countries as well.
The government is understood to be seeking “legally-binding” guarantees by the time of the referendum that EU treaties would be changed at some point in the future.