Prime Minister David Cameron has made "good progress" in his renegotiation efforts with the European Union, but there is there is "presently no consensus" on Cameron's controversial proposals to curb welfare for EU migrants, European Council President Donald Tusk said today.
In a new letter sent to members of the European Council – the heads of state or government from each of the 28 member states – Tusk said that while the issues raised by Cameron are "difficult", there remains a "strong will on the part of all sides to find solutions that respond to the British request while benefiting the European Union as a whole".
Tusk said, however, that ministers "need some more time to sort out the precise drafting on all of these issues, including the exact legal form the final deal will take" and warned that different member states will "have to overcome the substantial political differences that [they] still have on the issue of social benefits and free movement".
In a letter to Tusk last month, Cameron first proposed restricting in-work benefits for EU migrants for the first four years they are in the UK.
But Tusk said today that there is "presently no consensus on the request that people coming to Britain from the EU must live there and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing".
"This is certainly an issue where we need to hear more from the British Prime Minister and an open debate among ourselves before proceeding further," Tusk said, adding that the issue will "require a substantive political debate" at the Council's two-day meeting in Brussels next week.
Tusk nevertheless remained optimistic that the renegotiation process would move swiftly, saying that next week's Council "should address all the political dilemmas related to this process" and that the European Council should be able to sign off on a "concrete proposal" in February of next year.