Friday

23rd Feb 2024

EU-UK deal reached in marathon talks

  • Cameron: "Britain will be permanently out of an ever closer union, never part of a European superstate" (Photo: consillium.europa.eu)

[Updated 20 February, 1:30] EU leaders have reached a deal on keeping the UK in the bloc after marathon talks in Brussels, paving the way for British PM David Cameron to campaign for Britain to stay in the bloc.

"We have a deal which strenghtens Britain's special status in the EU. It is a legally binding and irreversible decision by all 28 leaders," EU Council president Donald Tusk said at a press conference.

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  • English breakfast turned to lunch, then dinner

Tusk said the discussions were "long and often heated".

"We haggled over the smaller detail of the deal. Perhaps it was not an aesthetic spectacle and far from glamourous. What matters is that the European leaders did not walk away from the negotiating table," he said.

Also speaking to press, Cameron said he "negotiated a deal to give the United Kingdom a special status inside the European Union".

“Britain will be permanently out of an ever closer union, never part of a European superstate,” he said, adding there will be new restrictions on benefits for EU migrants.

Cameron also vowed that Britain will never join the euro or the passport-free Schengen zone.

“I believe this deal is enough to recommend the UK remain in the EU, having the best of both worlds,” he said.

Swinging into campaign mode, Cameron added that the EU was not perfect and needed continuing reform, but that Britain is best placed to do it from the inside.

He assured he would campaign “heart and soul” to stay in the EU when British people vote wthere to stay In/Out if the Union, probably in June.

The deal

The final text, put together by Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is meant to address the issues raised by British prime minister David Cameron for a reformed EU membership.

The agreement came after two days of intensive bilateral talks, which delayed plans to hold a joint “English breakfast” into an "English lunch" and, eventually, the leaders' dinner.

The deal clears up all outstanding issues in the EU-UK talks, such as restricting access to in-work benefits for EU workers in UK and curbing child benefit, and contains British safeguards on eurozone governance, a re-interpretation of the phrase "ever closer union".

On the controversial issue of curbing in-work benefits for EU workers in the UK, the mechanism can be applied for seven years, without the possiblity to renew.

The UK originally wanted 13 years. But eastern European countries opposed the longer period, originally proposing a five-year duration, later offering the seven year deal.

In a major win for the UK over France, just one country will be sufficient to pull the emergency “brake” on eurozone issues.

The brake can be applied if that member state believes a decision by the 19-member euro club might endanger its national interests.

France had wanted a quorum of four states to use the brake, which delays potential eurozone decisions.

Hollande

But French president Francois Hollande said he was satisfied with the agreement because there will be "no British veto right on the eurozone".

Hollande also said that Cameron agreed that "all financial places should be equal" and that there will be no "different rules to apply to the City of London compared to other places around Europe".

On cutting benefits to children of EU workers who live in Britain, but whose children don't, curbs will only apply to new claimers.

But the text says that from 2020 "all member states may extend indexation of child benefit claims already exported by EU workers," meaning the tool will be available for all from 2020.

Denmark alreday annnounced it would apply the scheme.

Merkel

After the summit, chancellor Angela Merkel said "Germany may well claim" its right to use it as well.

A clause in the EU-UK agreement also says the offer is null if British voters decide to leave the bloc.

Meanwhile, Cameron got an easy way out of the phrase others interpret as a political commitment to further EU integration.

The deal says the EU will “make it clear that the references to ever closer union do not apply to the United Kingdom" and that this will be incorporated in the EU treaty in the future.

"We showed the flexibility to say that we have different ideas about the future of the European Union," Merkel noted.

Juncker however said that "the deal does not deepend cracks in our union but build bridges".

He noted that "it safeguards the integrity of the single market and the cohesion of the eurozone".

"The deal is a fair one," he added, and "it is legally sound."

"Now "it's up to the British people to decide," Juncker said.

On Monday, Cameron's cabinet is expected to table measures in the Houses of Parliament to set the date of the referendum, widely reported to be set for 23 June.

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