UK Prime Minister David Cameron was met with a frosty reception in Brussels as he attempted to persuade EU leaders to allow the UK to block access to benefits for working migrants from the bloc for up to four years in a bid to appease Euro-sceptics. The prime minister said "hard work" is needed not just on the welfare proposal, but all of his tabled reforms.
Speaking to reporters after the dinner, Cameron said that he believes treaty change is required and that it was discussed during the dinner with other leaders in the de facto European capital. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "I am optimistic because we all want a compromise. But work on substance needs to be done. Treaty change might be possible. Not now but perhaps later."
In terms of welfare, he said that the four-year proposal was the only one he offered and that it remains on the table. The prime minister referred to "enormous support" in the room to keep the UK in the EU and said that the political will to do so is there, but that satisfactory solutions must be found in "all four areas".
Cameron said that the timing of the referendum was not discussed "at all" during the meeting. He added that the Commission said there were "solutions on welfare" and indicated that there is a "pathway" and "momentum" to keep Britain in the EU. He added that the takeaway achievement of the summit was a general consensus among leaders that an agreement must be reached in all four areas.
The prime minister said: "I think very good progress has been made but it's going to be very difficult. We are trying something that hasn't been tried before. We have taken a big step forward for a better deal for Britain."
Juncker said: "The commission is ready to look for other options than the single one [the benefits cap] proposed by the British prime minister and I'm quite convinced that we will find a solution to that highly complicated question." Tusk said: "The consultations I have led with all member states show goodwill of all the parties involved, but it doesn't change the fact that some parts of the British proposal seem unacceptable."
In his address to the heads of state over a dinner of venison Cameron said: "The levels of migration we have seen in a relatively short period of time are unprecedented, including the pressures this places on communities and public services. This is a major concern of the British people that is undermining support for the European Union. We need to find an effective answer to this problem."
Cameron's demands do not go far enough for many within his party, as well as other Euro-sceptics including Ukip, but Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn says he is opposed to placing such limits on migrants at all. In doing so he contradicts Labour's 2015 general election manifesto which said migrants should be required to wait for two years to receive benefits. Speaking in Brussels, where he attending a meeting for left wing members of the European Parliament, Corbyn said: "If somebody is working, paying taxes, doing a job just like anybody else, then surely they deserve access to exactly the same benefits as anybody else."