- EXCLUSIVE: Senior Tories warned details could not emerge for months
- Final proposals might not be ready for December summit in Brussels
- Presentation now expected at European Council on 17 and 18 March
David Cameron is set to postpone revealing his demands for his renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the European Union until March next year, senior Tories have been warned.
A figure close to the Prime Minister has briefed colleagues that he may not be ready to list the reforms he is seeking at a December summit of EU leaders in Brussels, the Mail has learnt.
Instead, Downing Street officials are now considering pushing back the presentation until the European Council meeting on 17 and 18 March.
The delay warning comes as there is growing speculation that the renegotiation had stalled.
There is increasing frustration from leaders in Brussels and in capitals across the EU that Mr Cameron has been reluctant to clearly spell out what he wants.
So far he has only talked in broad terms rather than setting out a list of specific demands and how they could be achieved.
However, one of the senior Tories briefed about the updated renegotiation timings insisted that they could allow Mr Cameron ‘get down to the meat’ of proper reform in his renegotiation.
He told the Mail: ‘I would be worried if I thought a deal was going to be wrapped up and presented in December. It’s going to take longer than that.’
Mr Cameron will go to Brussels tomorrow for talks with the other 27 EU leaders at European Council, however, the British renegotiation will not be a main topic of discussion.
Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns yesterday told peers that progress on renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the EU would determine the final timing of the referendum on whether to leave or stay.
During the second reading of the European Union Referendum Bill in the Lords yesterday, Lady Anelay said: ‘The Government is committed to negotiating a new settlement for the UK in Europe – a settlement that ensures the EU is able to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
‘The negotiation will be difficult. There will be noise and possibly setbacks along the way.
‘But the Government is confident it can negotiate a new deal to put to the British people at the referendum itself.’
She said the Bill set the end of 2017 as the deadline for holding a referendum. ‘Progress on the renegotiation will determine the date of referendum.
‘Ultimately Parliament will decide whether to approve the date suggested by the Government.’
Last month during a visit to Brussels the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that serious negotiations would not start until next year.
He said: ‘When I’ve had a few glasses of champagne I think there might be agreement at the December European Council, a package and we can move forward.
‘But I think when I wake up with a headache more realistically the December European Council is going to represent the start of the serious and multi-lateral negotiations around the British package.
‘We expect that process to accelerate in the New Year and the really serious negotiations to take place early in 2016.
‘When they come to a conclusion I cannot yet predict but what I can tell you is we are committed to moving ahead with our referendum as quickly as we possibly can once we have a package agreed.’