David Cameron’s EU reform proposals are to be discussed by European leaders – with many said to be hostile to his bid to curb migrants’ welfare payments.
The first substantial political discussion of the detail of the PM’s plans is expected over dinner at the European Council summit in Brussels.
The EU Council president has predicted a “serious debate with no taboos”.
Mr Cameron wants to reform the UK’s relationship with the EU ahead of an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
Also on the agenda at the EU Council meeting will be the migrant crisis, climate change and the fight against terrorism.
The prime minister says he wants the UK to remain in a reformed EU but “rules nothing out” if his demands are turned down.
His requests focus on four key objectives:
- Protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro countries
- Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the “burden” of red tape
- Exempting Britain from “ever-closer union” and bolstering national parliaments
- Restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits for four years
EU officials say good progress has been made in three of the four areas, but the four-year waiting time for benefits has proved controversial, with Council President Donald Tusk saying recently there was “presently no consensus” among the 28 member states, all of whom would have to agree with his reforms.