Saturday

26th May 2018

Technical parts of UK deal left to EU leaders

  • Cameron hopes to get a deal with EU partners before an EU membership referendum at home (Photo: Downing Street)

A few hours before EU leaders meet in Brussels to try to reach a deal on British demands for EU reforms, uncertainties and risks of failure lie in the brackets of the draft decision.

In the latest version of the text to be discussed at the European Council on Thursday and Friday (18-19 February), leaked by the Financial Times, the wording on benefits, financial governance and treaty change is left to the leaders after diplomats failed to agree on a definitive text.

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.

"All the political issues will remain open," European Council president Donald Tusk warned on Thursday in his invitation letter to the leaders.

"There is still no guarantee that we will reach an agreement. We differ on some political issues and I am fully aware that it will be difficult to overcome them," he wrote, asking EU leaders to "remain constructive".

When they start talks, at 5pm local time, the EU heads of state and government will be assisted by a "war room of lawyers", an EU official said on Thursday.

The so-called "new settlement for the United Kingdom in the European Union" will consist on several statements and declarations on competitiveness, EU law implementation and EU internal migrations.

The most important one will be the legally binding decision of the heads of state and government.

Bigger role for MEPs?

The 18-page document encompasses all four "baskets" of issues raised by British prime minister David Cameron in November - economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty, social benefits and free movement.

The main issue to be settled is the one on benefits. EU leaders will have to decide for how long the UK can limit in-work benefits to new EU workers.

"The authorisation would have a limited duration and apply to EU workers newly entering its labour market during a period of [X] years, extendable for two successive periods of [Y] years and [Z] years," the draft decision reads for now.

In previous versions, the decision to trigger the mechanism was take by the EU Council through an implementing act. The latest draft refers to an "authorisation", which according to the FT means that the EU Parliament could have a say.

The so-called emergency brake would be triggered when a member state faces "an exceptional situation … on a scale that affects essential aspects of its social security system".

Eastern EU members want to ensure that the agreement will not create possibilities for other member states to restrict access to free movement.

"We do our utmost to keep the discussion about that," a diplomat from one of these countries said. 
The debate is over how to define a specific situation and how that situation is likely to last, another EU diplomat said.

"But we cannot solve everything at this stage, there will be a EU Commission proposal after the [UK] referendum," he said.

'Single rulebook'

In a nod to eastern countries, the decision also specifies that the possibility offered to the UK and other member states to index child benefits on the cost of raising a child in his country of origin will not be extended "to other types of exportable benefits such as old-age pensions".

On treaty change, EU leaders will have to decide whether to promise to include in a future EU treaty revision a clause reminding that the UK "is not committed to further political integration" in the EU.

The legal and political meaning of the mention to "an ever closer union" has been debated between member states and some are wary to commit themselves to a revision of the treaties.

The last point of disagreement is the financial governance. The debate will be over whether to free British financial institutions from EU rules.

The draft decision specifies that an EU "single rulebook is to be applied by all credit institutions and other financial institutions in order to ensure the level-playing field within the internal market."

It also tackle the issue of supervision or resolution of financial institutions from non-euro countries.


This highly technical debate comes because the UK want to ring-fence the City from eurozone rules and that countries led by France and Germany have made unity of the internal market rules a red line.

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.

Main 'Brexit' issues await EU leaders

While negotiators made "good progress" on the fine print in the UK-EU draft deal, the main issues will have to be decided by the EU leaders next week in Brussels.

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 stuck on key issues in 'tense' UK talks

All previous sticking points remained unresolved when leaders broke for bilateral meetings at EU-UK talks Thursday night. Council chief Donald Tusk now has to "square the circle".

EU still 'waiting for Cameron to move'

Overnight talks for an agreement with the UK dragged on into the afternoon Friday, as EU leaders were still searching for compromises on social benefits, financial governance and treaty change.

Visual Data

EU budget: Biggest cuts and increases

The European Parliament accused the EU Commission of not providing clear figures for a comparison of the proposed and the current EU budgets. We take a look at the main differences.

Opinion

EU budget must not fortify Europe at expense of peace

Given the European Commission new budget's heavy focus on migration, border management and security, many are asking whether the proposal will fortify Europe at the expense of its peace commitments.

Opinion

Europe's budget stasis

The EU's budgetary muddling through might not be enough when the next crisis hits.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations