Monday

20th May 2019

Cameron faces 'crunch time' in Brussels and London

  • Cameron (c) cited "time constraints" to avoid Farage and Le Pen (Photo: consillium.europa.eu)

British PM David Cameron is holding final pre-summit talks in Brussels on Tuesday (16 January) before confronting his own anti-EU ministers on Friday.

The UK leader will meet with European Parliament chief Martin Schulz and with the “sherpas” or head negotiators of the three main political groups.

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

  • Tusk (l) and Iohannis: Tusk's list of "outstanding issues" covered almost all UK demands (Photo: consillium.europa.eu)

Veteran German MEP Elmar Brok is representing the centre-right EPP group. Italian socialist Roberto Gualtieri is speaking for the centre-left S&D, while a former Belgian PM, Guy Verhofstadt, will speak for the liberal Alde faction.

Cameron will also meet European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

But he ducked out of a full-scale meeting of EU parliament group leaders.

His office cited “time constraints”, but EP sources said he wanted to avoid a clash with one of his popular antagonists - Nigel Farage, the British head of the eurosceptic EFDD group. He also wanted to avoid Marine Le Pen, the French head of the far-right ENF faction.

The EU assembly has no direct role in the renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership terms.

But it must ratify new provisions on EU workers’ rights and could embarrass the British PM by tabling amendments to any UK deal on welfare.

Cameron, who has been touring European capitals, also met French leader Francois Hollande in Paris for one hour on Monday.

A British spokesman said the talks yielded “a firm basis to reach agreement”.

A French official told the Reuters news agency: “There’s still work to be done, especially on economic governance.”

The comments refer to British demands to protect the City of London from financial decisions by the 19 euro-using EU states, which are heading toward deeper integration.

Meanwhile, EU Council chief Donald Tusk, also on Monday, continued his own UK referendum confessionals.

He said after meeting Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest that “positions harden, as we get closer to crunch time”.

“The risk of [an EU] break-up is real."

Child benefit

Cameron is close to winning Polish support on welfare curbs, amid haggling on whether to index child benefit payments to British or local EU wage levels.

Juncker said on Monday: “I do think that these social welfare benefits have to continue to be applied to those already in Britain. For the incoming workers, this has to be seen. The indexation of the child benefit will be at the core of the discussions.”

Tusk’s list of “outstanding political issues” extended to almost all British demands.

“These include the questions of future treaty change, a so-called emergency brake for non-euro area countries, a safeguard mechanism on access to in-work benefits, and finally the notion of ever-closer union,” Tusk said.

The “crunch time,” in EU terms, will come when European leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

If it goes well, Cameron is expected to call the In/Out referendum in late June and to campaign for the UK to stay in.

'Gutless' jibe

But he’ll face a second crunch when he gets back to London on Friday for a post-summit cabinet briefing.

Five of his ministers - Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Priti Patel, Theresa Villiers, and John Whittingdale - are hardened eurosceptics who aim to start immediately campaigning for an Out vote.

Other big personalities - home secretary Theresa May, justice minister Michael Gove, and London mayor Boris Johnson - are said to be on the fence.

Farage described Cameron’s decision to skip him as “gutless”.

The latest poll, by ComRes for ITV News, says 49 percent of British people will vote to stay in, but 41 percent want out.

Cameron urges EU concessions on welfare

British PM David Cameron says he made progress on the UK's membership of the EU during talks in Brussels on Friday, but it "wasn't enough".

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.

No guarantees for UK, says Schulz

EU Parliament president Martin Schulz said after meeting British PM David Cameron that he wants a fair deal for the UK but cannot guarantee the outcome of parliamentary processes.

EU leaders haggle over UK issues in final push

With tough political issues still outstanding, EU leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday where they will try to seal a deal with the UK that would help Cameron to campaign successfully for Britain to remain in the bloc.

Analysis

Sibiu: EU leaders prepare post-Brexit show of unity

With the European elections just three weeks away, the EU-27 will try to set the agenda for the next years for the EU institutions. But with persisting divisions on key issues, unity will be an achievement in itself.

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

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. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us