Saturday

3rd Dec 2022

Cameron faces 'crunch time' in Brussels and London

  • Cameron (c) cited "time constraints" to avoid Farage and Le Pen (Photo: consillium.europa.eu)

British PM David Cameron is holding final pre-summit talks in Brussels on Tuesday (16 January) before confronting his own anti-EU ministers on Friday.

The UK leader will meet with European Parliament chief Martin Schulz and with the “sherpas” or head negotiators of the three main political groups.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Tusk (l) and Iohannis: Tusk's list of "outstanding issues" covered almost all UK demands (Photo: consillium.europa.eu)

Veteran German MEP Elmar Brok is representing the centre-right EPP group. Italian socialist Roberto Gualtieri is speaking for the centre-left S&D, while a former Belgian PM, Guy Verhofstadt, will speak for the liberal Alde faction.

Cameron will also meet European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

But he ducked out of a full-scale meeting of EU parliament group leaders.

His office cited “time constraints”, but EP sources said he wanted to avoid a clash with one of his popular antagonists - Nigel Farage, the British head of the eurosceptic EFDD group. He also wanted to avoid Marine Le Pen, the French head of the far-right ENF faction.

The EU assembly has no direct role in the renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership terms.

But it must ratify new provisions on EU workers’ rights and could embarrass the British PM by tabling amendments to any UK deal on welfare.

Cameron, who has been touring European capitals, also met French leader Francois Hollande in Paris for one hour on Monday.

A British spokesman said the talks yielded “a firm basis to reach agreement”.

A French official told the Reuters news agency: “There’s still work to be done, especially on economic governance.”

The comments refer to British demands to protect the City of London from financial decisions by the 19 euro-using EU states, which are heading toward deeper integration.

Meanwhile, EU Council chief Donald Tusk, also on Monday, continued his own UK referendum confessionals.

He said after meeting Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest that “positions harden, as we get closer to crunch time”.

“The risk of [an EU] break-up is real."

Child benefit

Cameron is close to winning Polish support on welfare curbs, amid haggling on whether to index child benefit payments to British or local EU wage levels.

Juncker said on Monday: “I do think that these social welfare benefits have to continue to be applied to those already in Britain. For the incoming workers, this has to be seen. The indexation of the child benefit will be at the core of the discussions.”

Tusk’s list of “outstanding political issues” extended to almost all British demands.

“These include the questions of future treaty change, a so-called emergency brake for non-euro area countries, a safeguard mechanism on access to in-work benefits, and finally the notion of ever-closer union,” Tusk said.

The “crunch time,” in EU terms, will come when European leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

If it goes well, Cameron is expected to call the In/Out referendum in late June and to campaign for the UK to stay in.

'Gutless' jibe

But he’ll face a second crunch when he gets back to London on Friday for a post-summit cabinet briefing.

Five of his ministers - Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Priti Patel, Theresa Villiers, and John Whittingdale - are hardened eurosceptics who aim to start immediately campaigning for an Out vote.

Other big personalities - home secretary Theresa May, justice minister Michael Gove, and London mayor Boris Johnson - are said to be on the fence.

Farage described Cameron’s decision to skip him as “gutless”.

The latest poll, by ComRes for ITV News, says 49 percent of British people will vote to stay in, but 41 percent want out.

Cameron urges EU concessions on welfare

British PM David Cameron says he made progress on the UK's membership of the EU during talks in Brussels on Friday, but it "wasn't enough".

Cameron asks Germans to help keep Britain in EU

The British prime minister appeals to Germans to help achieve his proposed changes to the European Union that would help keep Britain in the bloc, and said he is not challenging the freedom of movement.

No guarantees for UK, says Schulz

EU Parliament president Martin Schulz said after meeting British PM David Cameron that he wants a fair deal for the UK but cannot guarantee the outcome of parliamentary processes.

EU leaders haggle over UK issues in final push

With tough political issues still outstanding, EU leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday where they will try to seal a deal with the UK that would help Cameron to campaign successfully for Britain to remain in the bloc.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us