23 Jun 2015

EU renegotiation: what next and who matters

This week’s EU summit in Brussels has been billed as the moment David Cameron kicks off the UK renegotiation. But he knows if he demanded a lot of time from EU leaders, in this of all weeks, he would risk looking like someone knocking on the door asking to borrow some milk when the neighbours’ house is on fire.

Instead he’s likely to get a moment, perhaps over dinner on Thursday night, to say collectively to the EU partners more or less what he hopes by then to have already said individually (face to face or by phone) to all 27 of them.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron gestures as he meets with Startups outside Number 10 Downing Street in London

He’s got seven EU leaders left to tick off that list. He’s visited most others and tried to book in talk face to face talks. The Austrian chancellor is amongst the trickiest to chat to still – a fall-out over nuclear energy seems to be the problem – a phone call may have to suffice there. The Greek PM is still to be spoken to and may have other things on his mind.

Once this week’s European summit is out of the way, the general introduction of the British case will have been made and the more detailed negotiations can begin.

It looks like the UK will want to kick these off using the European Council secretariat. It operates under former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk and, as of next month, is run by a new secretary general, a Dane with extensive experience of EU matters.

The UK is hoping that Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelson can oversee a discreet and productive phase in which detailed changes can be discussed. Here’s the man himself showing some media-savvy presentational skills in his current guise as Denmark’s man at the EU. His role could be crucial in deciding the success of the whole process.

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