Monday

20th Jan 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.

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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.

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