Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

Interview

Katainen explains: My friend Barroso did not lobby me

Vice-president of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen tells EUobserver that he did most of the talking during a beer with the former commission chief, who now works for Goldman Sachs.

News in Brief

  1. Belgian PM to host 11 EU leaders ahead of summit
  2. Tusk all but rules out pan-EU candidates in 2019 elections
  3. Tusk: EU budget agreed before 2019 elections 'unrealistic'
  4. Commission fines car cartels €546m
  5. Juncker: 'nothing' wrong in Katainen meeting Barroso
  6. Juncker appoints new head of cabinet
  7. MEPs decide not to veto fossil fuel projects list
  8. Factory relocation risks drawing Vestager into Italian election

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. International Climate ShowSupporting Start-Ups & SMEs in the Energy Transition. 21 February in Brussels
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  9. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  10. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  12. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP

Latest News

  1. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  2. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'
  3. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund
  4. Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner
  5. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  6. We are not (yet) one people
  7. Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills
  8. Eastern states push back at rule of law conditions on funds

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  3. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  5. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  6. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  7. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  10. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  12. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative