David Cameron has rebuffed attempts by European leaders to force Britain to take quotas of refugees from the Mediterranean after one of the bloodiest EU summits in recent memory.
Mr Cameron was pressed by Germany, Italy and other nations to take some of the 150,000 migrants who have arrived in Europe after fleeing Africa and Syria.
The Prime Minister used Britain’s opt out to block the demands, leaving European leaders descended into a furious and protracted debate.
After a revolt against plans for compulsory quotas, other European leaders eventually agreed to resettle 60,000 refugees arriving from the Mediterranean on a voluntary basis.
It amounts to a defeat for Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, who had wanted a compulsory redistribution scheme under a radical plan.
That was defeated in the face of strong opposition from countries including Hungary, which has built a four-metre high fence to close its border to migrant crossings.
Italy and other Mediterranean countries are struggling to cope with the arrival of 150,000 migrants fleeing the civil war in Syria and repression elsewhere in Africa by sea this year.
The leaders also agreed to give Frontex, the EU border force, unspecified new powers to return migrants deemed to have no right to remain in Europe.
Most of those who are relocated are likely to be Syrians and Eritreans, who cannot be repatriated due to the dangers they would face.
Mr Juncker said he “would have liked” his plan to be accepted but insisted it “doesn’t matter” now other states had accept the target.
He described the 60,000 as “a modest effort, let’s be honest about that. It certainly demonstrates that Europe is not always able to live up to its own ambitions that it sets to the outside world.”
At dinner, Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, lashed out at his counterparts for refusing to accept migrants.
“If that’s your idea of Europe, you can keep it,” Italian sources said. “Either give us solidarity or don’t waste our time.”
“If you don’t want to take the 40,000 you are not fit to be called Europe,” he added.
Mr Juncker and Mr Tusk partially denied they had rowed, after reports Mr Juncker had declared “Je m’en fous”- I don’t care – in the face of European Council concerns.
Asked about the remarks at a 3am press conference, Mr Juncker looked hurt, and theatrically moved to hug Mr Tusk, who pushed him away with one hand.
“Do not believe those who are tweeting. Do not believe those who are leaking,” Mr Juncker said. “There was no conflict between us tonight.”
“This conflict between us is pure abstraction,” Mr Tusk added. “We are not suicidal.” Mr Juncker added; “The day I will decide on suicide, he will do the same.”
The row left little time for David Cameron’s scheduled presentation on plans for a referendum, described by officials as a “brief” intervention while legal drafts were prepared of the resolution on migration.
One source described it as a “commercial break”.
Leaving the summit, Mr Cameron said: “I am delighted that the process of British reform and renegotiation, and the referendum we are going to hold, that process is now properly under way.
“People always say to me these things aren’t possible, that we will never get them done. Once again, we have proved we will get them done.
“We have started that process and it’s under way.”
Mr Tusk said that technical talks will now commence, and the results of the consultation would be presented to leaders in December.
Mr Juncker made plain his irritation at the late finish of the summit, hosted by Mr Tusk, saying he had been working until 3am the previous evening and needed to return to his office at 6am.
“I protest against this working method,” he said.
“I am still awake, but tired, but when you are tired you don’t make the best decisions. So I don’t appreciate this method which prevents my sleeping like an honest, average, mortal citizen.”
Telegraph News – culled from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/11700336/EU-Summit-David-Cameron-uses-EU-opt-out-to-refuse-migrant-quotas.html