European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he is confident a deal can be reached on UK Prime Minister David Cameron's renegotiation demands at next month's Council summit with EU leaders, confirming comments made by Commission Brexit taskforce chief Jonathan Faull earlier this week.
Addressing the Brussels press corps earlier today (Friday), Juncker said, "I am quite sure that we will have a deal. Not a compromise, but a solution - a permanent solution - in February."
The news is likely to please UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is keen to have a referendum on Britain's EU membership this summer. The vote can only take place once Cameron has completed his negotiations on re-defining his country's relationship with the EU. According to Juncker, the talks are, "entering a very delicate period."
Cameron outlined his negotiation wishlist last November. Most problematic is his demand to ban EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits if they have been in the country for less than four years, something the Commission objects to, on the basis that it violates the EU's freedom of movement principle, one of the bloc's key fundamental freedoms.
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to be favourable to finding a solution, the UK leader will need the backing of all 28 EU heads of state before anything can be agreed.
Commenting, Parliament's EPP group Chair Manfred Weber was confident that Cameron would find support, saying, "this is really a wide European issue of justice. Politically, we can find in this a common understanding to fight against misuse."
EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels to discuss the matter on 18 and 19 February.