Tuesday

22nd Aug 2017

UK offered legally binding EU commitments

  • Cameron (l) to get "legal guarantee that the matters of concern to the United Kingdom ... have been addressed" (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU leaders will next week agree to grant Britain a "legally binding" set of measures to accommodate British demands for EU reforms ahead of an EU membership referendum later this year.

According to draft conclusions of next week's EU summit, seen by EUobserver, the leaders will adopt a package of six documents on EU migration, economic governance, competitiveness, and implementation of EU laws.

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"The set of arrangements, which are fully compatible with the Treaties … constitute an appropriate response to the concerns of the United Kingdom," the draft document says.

First, EU leaders will adopt a decision "concerning a new settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union".

"This decision gives legal guarantee that the matters of concern to the United Kingdom as expressed in the letter of 10 November 2015 have been addressed," the draft says.

"It is legally binding, and may be amended or repealed only by common accord of the heads of state or government of the member states of the European Union."

Ring-fencing London

The second and third annexes will concern economic issues.

They will include a statement containing a draft Council decision "on specific provisions relating to the effective management of the banking union and of the consequences of further integration of the euro area" as well as a declaration on competitiveness.

Relations between the eurozone and non-euro countries have become a battlefield between the UK and countries like France.

The UK wants to ring-fence the City of London's financial activities from eurozone decisions and get guarantees it will not pay for future eurozone rescues.

But France has refused any arrangement that would prevent further eurozone integration.

Red cards, emergency brakes

British demands on subsidiarity, the EU principle according to which some issues are better dealt with at a national or local level, will be addressed in a fourth annex.

The annex will consist of a declaration by the European Commission "on a subsidiarity implementation mechanism and a burden reduction implementation mechanism".

The document is to include details on how a group of national parliaments can act together to block a legislative proposal, a mechanism known as a “red card” in EU jargon.

The two most important arrangements to be agreed at the summit will be two commission declarations "on the safeguard mechanism" and "on issues related to the abuse of the right of free movement of persons".

These two annexes will set out the so-called "emergency brake" on EU migration.

A draft agreement proposed by European Council president Donald Tusk on 2 February put forward a mechanism to limit in-work benefits for up to four years for new EU workers in another country.

"The limitation should be graduated, from an initial complete exclusion but gradually increasing access to such benefits to take account of the growing connection of the worker with the labour market of the host member state," the Tusk draft said.

Several EU countries, especially Poland and Hungary, are still wary about the scheme for fear of seeing their citizens discriminated in the UK and beyond.

Deficiencies in Schengen

The draft conclusions and the six annexes will be tinkered with until the last moment before the 18-19 February summit.

A crucial meeting of EU ambassadors and national EU advisers will take place on Thursday (11 February) in order to bridge remaining differences.

The annexes are the most complex part of their work in legal terms and the most sensitive in political terms.

The draft conclusions also include elements on the migration crisis.


EU leaders will agree that "important steps have been taken by Turkey in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Action Plan on access to the labour market and data sharing with the EU. However, the flows of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey remain much too high".

In a reference to Greece, they will also say that "addressing serious deficiencies identified in the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external borders constitutes an important step towards restoring in a concerted manner the normal functioning of the free circulation area".

Hungary, Poland say 'more talks' needed on UK deal

The Hungarian and Polish prime ministers oppose an EU-wide extension of the proposed benefit ban for EU workers, and pledge to develop a common position next week with other eastern European countries.

EU-UK talks stumbling on banks and benefits

While central European countries still express concerns over plans to limit benefits for EU workers, France says unfair competition in the financial sector is a "red line".

Europeans more optimistic about EU since Brexit vote

Perceptions of the EU have increased significantly in France, and Europeans generally feel more optimistic about the future of the bloc since last autumn - despite Brexit and a surge in populism.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

Ombudsman asks for more details on Barroso case

Emily O'Reilly has asked the EU Commission to say what former commissioners should be allowed to do after they leave office and explain why it took no decision over its former president's controversial new job.

Opinion

Macron goes east to test appetites for EU integration

The next few months will be decisive in selecting who stays in the core of the EU and who stays behind, writes Tomas Prouza, a former state secretary for European Affairs of the Czech Republic.

News in Brief

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  4. UK to publish new Brexit papers this week
  5. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  6. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  7. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  8. European Union returns to 2 percent growth

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