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Schulz Signals Path To EU Deal For Cameron

“Not good enough” was the Prime Minister’s top line verdict on the European Commission’s manoeuvre to get him to accept a type of emergency brake.

Cameron

But as with many things in this renegotiation, there were mixed messages and expectations management aplenty.

There was no chance of a victory dance just yet.

Of greater significance, for me, was the public reaction of the European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

 PM: Latest EU Migrants Idea ‘Not Good Enough’

I have been interviewing the influential German MEP at regular stages during the course of Mr Cameron’s renegotiation.

He was somewhat sceptical at the outset, and in December, about the PM’s tactics.

But on Friday he pledged the European Parliament’s co-operation in helping the United Kingdom attain a legal underpinning for the political agreement likely next month.

Some of the changes to EU migrant benefits envisaged in this deal will require changes to secondary legislation and therefore votes in the European Parliament.

Tellingly, Mr Schulz also confirmed that the European Council President Donald Tusk will on Monday be circulating his written paper, the start of the final stage of deal making.

Much will depend on the way Mr Tusk tries to build consensus in the coming weeks.

He could present a version of Britain’s ideas signed up to Mr Cameron, knowing different aspects will be struck out by different European leaders.

Or he could jump straight in with an attempt at a workable compromise between the 30 players around the Council table, presuming the PM will compromise.

This is what will be sorted out at a working dinner at Number 10 with Donald Tusk on Sunday. The PM is also expected to make a number of calls to European leaders over the weekend.

As regards the Emergency Brake – the devil can never have been so firmly ensconced in the detail of a policy.

The what, who, how and when of this policy could turn it from anything from a policy very close to exactly what David Cameron put in his election manifesto to something closer to an emergency airbag.

For now, “not good enough” also applies to the opinion of many influential backbenchers.

The attitude of many in the Remain campaign will be that backbenchers only have one vote in the referendum.

Number 10 was undoubtedly frustrated at the Commission over-egging the likelihood of a deal based on this policy.

But it would be wrong to depict the differences as intractable. Progress has clearly been made.

The Commission has conceded the concept that EU migrants should not receive benefits before contributing.

Mr Cameron also has an opportunity to grasp in the form of deeply split Leave campaigns attacking each other against a backdrop of a lack of high profile leadership and attempted coups.

The players in this game have started to show their hands.

Mr Cameron has been offered something that sounds like his manifesto commitment, that he could begin to sell to swing voters.

The path to a February deal may not be clear, but it is there.

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