European leaders are reviewing a plan that they hope will persuade Britain to stay in the 28-member European Union.
Britain's initial reaction to the new plan is that it makes "real progress" toward settling the disputes that have led London to consider dropping out of the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron said "more work is to be done," but it appears there can be a real change in relations between Britain and the European alliance.
The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, circulated his draft proposals Tuesday in a letter to leaders of alliance member states. The plan would make it possible for British lawmakers to work with European partners to block unwanted EU laws, and it notes that Britain now faces an “exceptional situation” due to an influx of immigrants taxing Britain's social services.
The plan aims to address Britain's concerns about the terms and limits of its EU membership terms, including what many Britons see as a loss of sovereignty to Brussels, without requiring time-consuming changes to the formal treaties that established and defined the European Union. It must be endorsed by the other EU members, however, and is scheduled to be discussed at an alliance summit in Brussels on February 18.
Britain's ruling Conservative Party has pledged to hold a national referendum by the end of 2017 on the nation's continued membership in the EU.
Prime Minister Cameron has tried to convince skeptical members of his Conservative Party that Britain's interests are best served by remaining in the European alliance.
To that end, he presented four proposals last month for reforming Britain's relations with the European Union: building competitiveness into the EU's practices; making sure that non-euro countries, including Britain, are not discriminated against by the 19 member states that use the euro currency; clarifying that Britain is not formally obligated to work toward "an ever-closer union'' with its European partners; and instituting curbs on migration and benefits.