Cameron pitched up at 14:00CET for his 30 minute handwaver, expressly about his four EU negotiation points before the Brexit referendum.
- Competitiveness: The UK to push for stronger efforts to make the EU economy more competitive, through cutting red tape for business and deepening the single market. I suppose no EU country would oppose such a 'no brainer' but any direct steps will be hard to achieve in time for the referendum.
- Sovereignty (nee Treaty): The UK insists on an opt-out from the EU treaty goal of “ever closer Union”. It also wants the EU to give national parliaments more powers to stall or reject new EU rules. For this one, the UK is likely to be given a written commitment that the Lisbon Treaty rights for national parliaments will be upheld. In other words, yes but it will take ages and committees to change the treaties.
- Euro “ins” and “outs”: The UK wants safeguards that the Eurozone members can't outvote the non-euro countries on EU policies (especially financial services). It is predicted that with nine EU countries outside the euro, adjustments to voting should be feasible but will again take time to figure out. This was being discussed on the day the GBP was unexpectedly sliding to €1.30
- Migration:Cameron has called for stricter rules on migration, in particular curbs on in-work benefits for EU nationals coming to the UK. This is the one where there is likely to be large disagreements, although possibly Cameron has built wiggle room into the 'four years qualifying period' part of his statements?
The upshot of it all was Cameron was able to say he'd like to conclude the negotiations by end February, but if it takes longer then so be it. I'm guessing he could get 3 of 4 but the migration one is unlikely to land unless there's some significant changes.
None of the questioners in the last 8 minutes mentioned that UK has 73 MEPs of which 22 (30%) are UKIP hardcore Eurosceptics determined to undermine UK's EU role.
Cameron also stated that he didn't need to have the referendum until end 2017. Perhaps an interesting way to manage UK expectations: announcing the potential for slippage from May 2016 in a 30 minute slot in Switzerland?
And we've just seen how useless the pollsters are, so I suppose the whole referendum vote will still net down to some sort of personality contest about who the voters want to kick out from (UK) office.