The Latest: UK's anti-EU leader calls draft deal 'pathetic'

BRUSSELS – The Latest on negotiations on changes to EU law aimed at keeping Britain in the bloc (all times local):

3:00 p.m.

The leader of Britain’s anti-European Union party says a new EU plan aimed at keeping Britain in the bloc is “pathetic.”

United Kingdom Independence Party chief Nigel Farage said the plan is “hardly worth waiting for. It’s truly pathetic.”

Farage said the proposals from European Council President Donald Tusk involve no EU treaty changes or the return of national sovereignty. He described a compromise to allow Britain to limit benefits to migrant workers from other EU countries as “pretty weak stuff.”

Farage said EU leaders meeting to discuss the draft deal at a summit in Brussels on Feb. 18 “will approve this document, they are giving us nothing.”


2:50 p.m.

The European Commission is signalling that Britain could immediately limit tax credits given to workers in low paid jobs and housing benefits to immigrants under a deal to keep it in the EU.

The EU’s executive Commission has drawn up a “safeguard mechanism” which could be used for Britain to respond to “exceptional situations of inflow of workers” from other EU countries. The Commission said in a draft document made public Tuesday that “the type of exceptional situation that the proposed safeguard mechanism is intended to cover exists in the United Kingdom today.”

It said that “the United Kingdom would be justified in triggering the mechanism in the full expectation of obtaining approval,” should it agree to the EU deal.

Prime Minister David Cameron wants to limit British welfare benefits to immigrants from other EU countries — but other leaders say that undermines the right of EU citizens to work and live freely among member nations.


1:00 p.m.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron says the draft program presented by European Council President Donald Tusk represents “real progress” in Britain’s difficult negotiations with the EU.

He says there is “more work to be done” but insists the proposal shows that real change can be achieved.

“So, real progress, more work to be done, more detail to be nailed down, but we said we needed to deliver in four key areas, this document shows real progress on that front.”

The prime minister spoke after Tusk released details of the plan in Brussels.


12:45 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk has unveiled proposals that he hopes will keep Britain in the 28-nation European Union.

The draft deal was made public on Tuesday in a letter to EU leaders. It must be endorsed by Britain’s EU partners and is set to be thrashed out at a summit in Brussels on Feb. 18.

Tusk proposed that more power be given to national parliaments to potentially block legislation. The plan would not bind Britain to deeper EU integration, which is written into the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.

It aims to balance the concerns of Britain about its membership terms and perceived loss of sovereignty to Brussels without requiring time-consuming changes to the EU’s legal treaties.

Prime Minister David Cameron wants to hold a referendum by the end of next year on whether Britain should leave the EU, with this June already shaping up as a possible time for the vote.


11:35 p.m.

A British official says the U.K. Parliament would have a role in blocking EU legislation that it disagrees with under draft rules for a new relationship between Britain and the European Union.

The plan is being negotiated in advance of a promised referendum on British membership that Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold by the end of 2017.

The details of the proposal have not yet been made public. European Council President Donald Tusk is expected to outline the terms later Tuesday.

The British official made the comments in a statement released only on condition of anonymity because the EU had not yet made its official announcement.

The official said that under the plan, if 55 per cent of European parliaments disagree with EU legislation it could be blocked.