Saturday

6th Mar 2021

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

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

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.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. China and Russia abusing corona for geopolitics, Lithuania says
  2. Worries on Europe's infection surge, after six-week drop
  3. EU wants large firms to report on gender pay-gap or face fines
  4. EU Commission cannot hold Frontex to account
  5. Orbán leaves EPP group - the beginning of a long endgame
  6. 'Corporate due diligence'? - a reality check before EP votes
  7. Austrian ex-minister joins list of EU's pro-Kremlin lobbyists
  8. Internal Frontex probe to deliver final report this week

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us