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EU deal twitchiness

19 February 2016

Richard Messingham discusses the EU renegotiations and looks ahead to the next European Council summit.

There will be no update on the activity in parliament during the week commencing 15 February as both Houses are in recess and return on Monday 22 February. 

Although parliament was not sitting, the government had a busy week. The prime minister was expected to secure a deal with other European leaders over EU membership on Friday 19 February. While some progress was reported following talks on Thursday, the agreement is said to be far from secure and European Council President Donald Tusk is quoted as saying that "a lot still remains to be done". 

If the outcome is positive, David Cameron may launch the EU referendum campaign and have a cabinet meeting later today or tomorrow rather than waiting until Tuesday. At that point, collective responsibility will be suspended and some big hitters in the Cabinet such as Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith will campaign to leave the EU. There has also been an increasing political speculation that Michael Gove may decide to publically declare for the out campaign.

Cameron has assured that, if a deal cannot be reached, he is prepared to wait for as long as it takes to secure the right deal for Britain. In fact, he has until the end of 2017 to fulfil his electoral pledge. 

The next opportunity for the prime minister to have EU leaders to agree on his proposal is the EU Council on 17-18 March. The next European Council summit after March is scheduled for 23-24 June.

A failure to secure a deal at this week's or at the March summit means that the likely date for the referendum will be in the autumn. The prime minister is required to give at least 16 weeks' notice of a referendum, which takes us to the first week of October.

Tags: politics | Westminster weekly update | European Union | Parliament | Brexit

About the author

Richard Messingham is head of public affairs at the Law Society. He and his team are responsible for supporting the president and CEO to manage the Society's relationships with Parliamentarians, Ministers, civil servants and other major stakeholders of direct relevance to solicitors.
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