Thursday

9th Apr 2020

UK and EU ready to compromise on EU migration

  • British PM Cameron is said to be ready to drop demands on benefit cuts. (Photo: Consillium)

British prime minister David Cameron and the EU could find a middle ground on EU migration to the UK in order to secure a deal in February ahead of a EU memberhsip referendum in the UK net year.

Cameron is said to be ready to compromise and see only some of his concerns on migration and welfare for migrants addressed, while the EU could agree on a promise to introduce an "emergency brake" on migration to the UK.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

The positions are aligning ahead of next Thursday's EU summit, which is designed to pave the way for a final deal at the next summit in February.

According to London daily The Guardian, Cameron is preparing to tell EU leaders that he will accept agreement on most, not all, his demands on migration and welfare.

This would mainly concern the demand to cut benefits for four years for EU citizens working in the UK, which is widely opposed by other member states.

'Most delicate issue'

As a trade-off, the EU would be ready to grant the UK an "emergency brake", allowing the country to put a cap on EU migration when its social services are overwhelmed.

"Britain wants to make sure it can defend against the abuse of welfare benefits. We could imagine other ways to do that. It could be an emergency brake," a European diplomatic source was quoted as saying by the AFP.

The mechanism would amount to a limitation of free movement in the EU and would require a delicate legal wording to be in line with EU law.

But in an interview to the Spectator weekly, Cameron warned that migration would be a key issue in the upcoming EU referendum he will organise in June or September next year.

"I think with both the eurozone crisis and the migration crisis, the short term impact is for people to think: ‘Oh Christ, push Europe away from me. It’s bringing me problems'," he said.

Cameron's demand to cut benefits for four years for EU citizens working in the UK has been the most problematic item in the list of EU reforms demands he sent to EU leaders last months.

In a letter to EU leaders on Monday (7 December), EU Council president Donald Tusk said the issue "is the most delicate and will require a substantive political debate".

The British PM got a new rebuttal on Thursday in Warsaw, where one of his closest allies, Polish PM Beata Szydlo, said she did not "see eye to eye" with him.

'Sovereign decisions'

"There are some proposals that are unquestionably acceptable in terms of EU reforms," she said at a common press conference after meeting Cameron.

Numbering almost 700,000 people, Poles are the biggest EU community in the UK and would be directly hit by the proposal, as well as a demand to ban EU citizens to send child benefits to their family back in their country.

Coming from a fellow member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) political family, Szydlo's opposition signals the near impossibility for Cameron to get a deal with the EU on the migration "basket" of his demands.

Szydlo nevertheless expressed her overall support for Cameron's demand for EU reform.

“We fully accept the right of the United Kingdom to take sovereign decisions with regard to welfare policy," she said, suggesting she would support cutting benefits for non-working migrants.

“We will do everything to support our partners from the United Kingdom, so that British citizens speak in favour of further cooperation within the frame of the European Union,” she said.

British PM in 'difficult' talks on EU welfare

British PM, in Poland and Romania, calls for welfare restrictions on EU migrants, says refugee crisis prompting UK voters to think: "Oh Christ, push Europe away."

Tusk: UK reform talks are 'difficult'

The European Council president said there is "no consensus" on British demands to cut benefits for EU citizens and urged EU leaders to find a compromise before February.

EU aims for UK deal in February

In December, EU leaders will hold initial talks. In February, they'll try to agree on reforms to keep Britain in the EU. "It will be all about the details."

Opinion

A Czech view on UK referendum demands

Czechs open to many UK demands on EU reform, junior minister says. But discrimination against Czech workers or curbs on freedom of movement are a no-go.

Analysis

First 100 days: Digital and Green Deal policies hit by crises

The first 100 days of Ursula von der Leyen's commission were supposed to be about the digital and environmental transitions. However, that agenda has been hit by first the coronavirus, and now the Greek border situation.

News in Brief

  1. IMF: Pandemic crisis will be worse than great depression
  2. German economy minister expects progress on EU deal
  3. Italian PM: EU is at risk if no deal on recovery plan
  4. Belgian region to block EU Green Deal
  5. EU commission launches green finance consultation
  6. EU parliament kitchens to cook for homeless
  7. EU sets aside €15.6bn for virus fight in Africa and beyond
  8. CO2 emissions from EU plunge 60 percent

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Why Europe must act now, and on a big scale
  2. EU court blocks Poland's bid to 'frighten' judges
  3. Coronavirus sees approval-rating soar for EU leaders
  4. EU science chief who 'quit' had been told to resign
  5. EU delays 'exit strategies' plan, as WHO urges caution
  6. EU stalemate after 16-hour meeting on economic aid
  7. The future of 'Made in China' after coronavirus?
  8. Refugees across Europe help fight the pandemic

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us