Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

EU still 'waiting for Cameron to move'

  • British PM Cameron (r) had several meetings with EU Council and Commission presidents Tusk and Juncker (l) to try to unblock negotiations. (Photo: Reuters)

Bilateral talks were still ongoing Friday afternoon (19 February) in Brussels among EU leaders and British prime minister David Cameron, with sources saying a deal is still likely this weekend between the UK and EU.

Overnight and early Friday, EU Council president Donald Tusk held several meetings with EU leaders and Cameron to close the remaining gaps on the key outstanding issues, such as eurozone governance, building an "ever closer union" in the EU, child benefits and restricting access to in-work social benefits in the UK for EU workers.

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

The so-called Visegrad Four, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, are still at odds with the UK on how long the in-work benefits can be suspended for EU workers, with the UK's starting position at 13 years (7+3+3) and the eastern Europeans proposing seven years.

"We are waiting for Cameron to make a move, the V4 have already moved their starting position from 5 years to 7," a source said.

Child benefits

On the reduction of child benefits claimed by EU workers, a compromise could be found on non-retroactivity, meaning that only new workers will see their child benefits indexed to the cost of raising a child in their country of origin.

The measure granted to the UK would be optional for other EU countries. Denmark has already announced it would opt-in.

Representing the Visegrad countries, Czech prime minister Sobotka also met with German chancellor Angela Merkel to see whether Germany, another country with a large number of EU workers, might also look into curbing benefits for EU workers' children living elsewhere.

Poland is particularly worried that Germany might also opt-in to the child benefit indexation mechanism.

Polish sources said that any measures on child benefits in the UK and other EU countries could affect 100,000 Polish children, with 40 percent of them having parents working in Germany. The total number of eastern European children potentially affected is said to be 500,000.

Cameron met with Polish PM Beata Szydlo on the sidelines of the summit.

Some speculated that a package deal on child benefits and curbing in-work benefits could resolve the two issues.

Polish EU minister Konrad Szymanski suggested there was a compromise on the duration of benefits curbs, without revealing a number, and said the focus was on the child indexation issue.

Drama

Other outstanding issues remained, such as the reference to an "ever closer union", with Belgium insisting that the text make clear that no other country than the UK could free itself of this political commitment to deepen EU integration.

France was still asking for one word to be removed from paragraphs on EU powers in case of "threats to financial stability", to avoid that in the future Britain can be exempt from EU rules. It was also dragging its feet on incorporating the arrangement in an EU treaty change.

Cameron however made it clear to EU leaders on Thursday night that he could not accept any more concessions.

"As I've said I'll only do a deal if we get what Britain needs," he told reporters Friday morning.

Sources say bilateral meetings will go on until Tusk's team is ready with a new proposal, that would be discussed by leaders when they reconvene at 16.00 Friday afternoon. However, depending on the progress in the negotiations, the summit's schedule could be delayed.

"A deal is possible. But the timing depends on what kind of drama some countries like to perform," Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite said.

When he arrived Friday morning, Cameron told reporters he had told his wife he might have to stay until Sunday. But diplomats said that some leaders were determined not to let Cameron impose his timing.

Describing the mood, a source said: "There is a sense that there will be a deal, might take longer, but the mood is there will be a deal."

As the "English meal", in which leaders were to discuss the UK proposals, was delayed once again, Belgian PM Charles Michel told reporters it was "now or never". "There won"t be a second chance," he said.

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 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.

EU-UK deal reached in marathon talks

EU leaders have reached a deal on new UK membership terms after marathon talks in Brussels. The UK won concessions on a eurozone "brake" and welfare curbs.

Cameron set for EU showdown with MPs

British PM Cameron is due to make his case in parliament for the UK to stay in the EU, but party ally Boris Johnson has announced he will campaign to leave.

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

News in Brief

  1. Visegrad countries meeting with Israel called off
  2. EU ministers call climate change 'direct and existential threat'
  3. Seven MPs leave Britain's Labour Party
  4. Czech PM: May's EU elections 'most important ever'
  5. 'History will judge us': May tells MPs on Brexit
  6. Trump warns EU on release of Islamist fighters
  7. Venezuela expels 'conspiratorial' MEPs
  8. Holocaust dispute upsets Israel's EU lobbying

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  2. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  3. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  4. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  5. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  6. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  7. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  8. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us