Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Analysis

From Bratislava to Rome: Little more than a show of unity

The so-called Bratislava process of reflection for the EU came to an end on Saturday, but there were few tangible results that citizens could take away from the soul-searching. Despite that, unity among the EU-27 has been maintained.

Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

EU 27 leaders in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Rome, in bid to counter rising challenges after Brexit. But new ideas are scarce.

Opinion

Birthday wishes to the European Union

With the EU soon to celebrate its 60th birthday, there are still lingering questions about the bloc's future and whether there can be a change in fortune.

News in Brief

  1. Scottish MPs give go ahead to seek referendum
  2. Uber pulls out of Denmark over new taxi-regulation
  3. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  4. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal
  5. EU majority against GM crops, but not enough to block them
  6. Turkish referendum voting starts in Europe
  7. Le Pen says she lacks election funds
  8. UN dinner for Cyprus leaders to restart stalled peace talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  2. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  3. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  4. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  5. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  6. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  8. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  9. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  10. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  12. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans