January 28, 2016 / 8:49 AM / in 2 years

British PM Cameron to meet EU's Tusk on Sunday as package takes shape

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet European Council President Donald Tusk in London on Sunday, an EU spokesman said, as officials prepare to reveal details of reform negotiations next week.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The meeting will follow Cameron’s talks in Brussels on Friday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, whose staff have worked on proposals to meet London’s demands to change the EU before a referendum on Britain’s membership.

Cameron hopes to agree a package of measures with fellow national leaders at a European Union summit in three weeks. Before then, officials and diplomats expect Tusk, who will chair the summit, to send out a letter to governments as early as Monday that will outline his suggestions for reaching consensus.

Of four areas of reform requested by Cameron in November, by far the most difficult to reach agreement on is likely to be a mechanism that Cameron can present to voters as a way to reduce immigration from the rest of the EU. Other leaders insist they will not curb EU citizens’ freedom to move in search of work.

Cameron’s proposal to deny British welfare benefits to EU workers for four years has been widely dismissed as illegal under treaties banning national discrimination.

Negotiators have looked at alternatives, including narrowing the definition of employment - only workers would have the right to live in other EU countries - or offering an “emergency brake” giving states the right to halt EU immigration if it puts welfare or other vital national interests in jeopardy.

However, they do say they want to help Cameron win a vote to keep Britain, the bloc’s second biggest economy, in. The vote could come as early as June if agreement is reached at the Feb. 18-19 summit. It must be held by the end of next year.

The prime minister, whose Conservative party is divided on the issue, says he will campaign to stay in if his demands are met but rules nothing out if other states reject them.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald

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