Sunday

21st Apr 2019

No issue in UK talks resolved yet, EU negotiator says

  • Faull: 'Political will to settle the issue is pretty strong' (Photo: europeanbusinesssummit)

A deal on EU reforms with Britain in February is possible but one should "not put money on it,” the European Commission’s chief negotiator said on Thursday (14 January).

Although "the political will to settle the issue is pretty strong" from all parties involved in the talks, "there are still difficult issues remaining to be resolved", Jonathan Faull told MEPs in Brussels on the constitutional affairs committee.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Faull, a British former commisssion spokesman and director general for justice and home affairs and for financial services, was nominated last September to chair a commission Task Force for Strategic Issues related to the UK Referendum.

"I'm not a betting man and I'm not going to put money on it and I wouldn't encourage you to either," he said, when German centre-right MEP David McAllister asked him if he should bet on a deal at the EU summit on 18-19 February.

The summit will be "crucial,” Faull said. He noted that "we have not long to go" and said he expected the draft agreement, which will be put to the heads of state and government, would be issued "some time early in February".

By then, "the whole question will become a matter of public debate all across our member states", he said.

Fundamental principles

For now, Faull told MEPs, although "the discussions have been very serious with Britain", none of the four issues raised by British prime minister David Cameron "is today completely resolved".

The four "baskets" of British demands are over economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty, and immigration.

Among the specific issues still unresolved, Faull mentioned the symbolic reference to "an ever closer union", the relationship between eurozone and non-eurozone countries, the free movement of workers and "the conditions in which workers are treated in member states".

Since talks started in the autumn, the main stumbling point has been the British demand that EU workers in the UK are banned from social benefits for four years.

"There are very difficult issues politically and legally in the UK and for the 27 other member states as well and for the legal system we seek to uphold at all times," Faull said.

"The question will be whether the current framework contains sufficient flexibility to deal with the issues raised, while maintaining the fundamental principles that within a single market, there are fundamental freedoms which have to remain intact," Faull told MEPs.

He also noted that these fundamental freedoms "are not unconditional ones", in so far as "the treaty and secondary legislation have laid down a whole series of rules which frame the circumstances in which not only persons and workers, but goods, capital and services, are the subject of the fundamental freedoms across the European Union".

Impact of referendum

EU leaders in December committed "to find mutually satisfactory solutions in all the four areas" at the February summit.

Today, "a range of possibilities" remains open, from "a simple declaratory statement, to references to legislative activity", or even treaty change, Faull said.

"Many issues can be settled without violating current treaties and without requiring any amendment to treaties," he said. The content of the deal "depends on leaders, what they think needs to be done and then we can all determine how best to do it".

Faced with a referendum on Britain's EU membership to be held after an agreement is reached, the commission negotiator said the EU was "not considering the impact of result" in the drafting of the deal.

"We'll see where we are when the referendum takes place," Faull said, adding that he would not be able to vote despite being a British citizen.

"I've lived abroad too long," he said.

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.

Member states gain time in UK talks

British prime minister David Cameron and his partners vowed to find "mutually satisfactory solutions" to keep Britain in the EU but laid out no clear roadmap.

Hungary open to UK deal if it avoids discrimination

Hungary could support to the UK's proposals to curb in-work benefits, as long as they do not discriminate against Hungarian workers, prime minister Viktor Orban stressed as he hosted David Cameron in Budapest.

Cameron 'not in a hurry' for EU deal

British PM David Cameron has said in Davos he is not in a hurry to hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership, setting the stage for a possible delay on a deal expected to be closed in February.

Cameron holds referendum talks with Juncker

Cameron cancelled visits to Denmark and Sweden on Friday to "take stock" of UK membership talks with EU Commission president Juncker. Progress update expected next week.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us