EU Commission President Jean-Claude Junker hopes to keep what he calls "down to earth Britain" in the EU but has dashed any hopes of major treaty change.
Juncker ruled out a major reform of the European treaties to satisfy British demands for reform. Speaking at a conference he insisted he was "in favour of a fair deal or Britain" adding "he can't believe in a European Union without Britain".
The major sticking point for Juncker was one of the EU's four fundamental freedoms - including freedom of movement. He told the gathering at the Jacques Delors Institute:
There are red lines. I'm not ready to give up freedom of movement for workers ... You can't change the treaty.
He argued, however, that Brexit would be bring no benefit to Britain or Europe. One the key planks in the next Tory manifesto will be a fundamental renegotiation of Britain's EU membership to be followed by a referendum.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have pledged benefits crackdowns on EU migrants to stem some of the support flowing to Ukip. Nigel Farage's party has made great play of the fact that absolute numbers of people coming to the UK cannot be controlled all the while Britain is a member of the EU.
Ed Miliband has said that if he wins this year's General Election there will be no referendum on EU membership.