Exclusive Exclusive: Brussels, London Optimistic About Reaching Deal to Keep U.K. in European Union

Brussels is increasingly confident that a deal with Britain on its role in the European Union can be reached in February, Handelsblatt has learned, with E.U. officials pointing to possible compromises on benefits and the euro currency. E.U. Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told Handelsblatt that “The relationship between ins and outs in the euro zone will not be the main obstacle to an agreement” with the United Kingdom. This marks a shift from last year, when British Prime Minister David Cameron complained that the euro was enshrined in the European Union’s treaties as the only European currency. Now, Mr. Cameron has reportedly dropped his demand that the treaties be changed. In return, the European Union’s leaders are expected to make clear that not every E.U. member must join the common currency. “We want to see a clear recognition that not every E.U. member state will join the euro,” David Lidington, Britain’s minister for Europe, told Handelsblatt. Mr. Lidington also signaled that Britain was open to discussing options on benefits. Britain has demanded a four-year freeze on social benefit payments to E.U citizens looking for work in Britain. “Four years will remain on the table until there is something better. We are ready to discuss alternatives,” Mr. Lidington said. Mr. Cameron’s goal is still to reach a deal in February, when a summit of E.U. leaders is planned for the middle of the month. Brussels officials said they would then assume that the British prime minister would call a referendum on Britain’s E.U. membership by the spring or summer. “Prime Minister Cameron would like to get a deal in February, if he can. But the content will determine timing, not the other way round,” Mr. Lidington said.   Read the full story in Thursday’s Handelsblatt Global Edition at 12:00 Central European Time. Picture Source: Reuters