Sunday

17th Oct 2021

EU and UK caught in bad romance, Juncker warns

  • Juncker - "no debate, dialogue or compromise" on freedom of movement. (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker has given the clearest hint yet that he would be prepared to see the UK leave the EU, comparing the UK’s 42-year membership of the bloc to a romance gone wrong.

“People shouldn’t stay together if conditions aren’t the same as when things started,” said Juncker in Paris at the weekend, quipping that “it’s easy to fall in love and more difficult to stay together".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The UK joined the then European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, a decision confirmed by a referendum in 1975, but has long been regarded by many as an ‘awkward partner’.

“I am for the respect of member states, respect between the institutions and member states. I am against all forms of grovelling,” said Juncker.

Meanwhile, he ruled out the prospect of UK-pushed treaty changes to reform EU rules on free movement saying that there would be “no debate, dialogue or compromise” on an issue which he described as "red lines which could not be crossed".

“We can fight against abuses - and national lawmakers can do that - but the EU won’t change the treaties to satisfy the whim of certain politicians,” added Juncker.

The commission president's stance is a political blow to prime minister David Cameron ahead of the UK’s general election in May.

Cameron has promised to re-negotiate the UK’s EU membership terms if his Conservative party forms a majority, followed by an ‘in/out’ referendum in 2017.

The UK prime minister’s rhetoric on EU migration is likely to intensify in the coming weeks, with surveys suggesting that immigration, rather than the economy or public services, is the most important issue to voters.

Opinion polls at the weekend put Cameron’s Conservative party on 28 percent, five points behind the Labour party and only eight ahead of Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party.

While other EU countries, particularly in northern Europe, have complained about so-called ‘welfare tourism’, with Angela Merkel’s German government proposing legislation to curb access to child benefits and other payments, Cameron wants to go further by requiring all EU migrants to have a job within six months of arriving in the UK.

He also wants them to pay into the UK’s tax and social security programmes for four years before they can receive certain benefits and plans to end the payment of child benefit to dependents of EU migrants in their home country.

However, last autumn Cameron dropped a plan to cap the number EU nationals able to come to the UK amid opposition from Berlin and other capitals, and following warnings that this would breach the EU treaties.

Germany gives no ground to UK on EU migration

Merkel gave no new ground to Cameron on curbing EU migration following talks in London, stating that abuse of welfare benefits can be better handled in other ways.

News in Brief

  1. Poland legalises refugee pushbacks
  2. Report: China's Xi to snub UK climate summit
  3. Norway killings 'appeared to be' Islamist 'terrorism'
  4. Le Pen vows to 'dismantle' wind-power plants
  5. Slovenia PM tweets antisemitic conspiracy theory
  6. Italy sentences ship captain for Libya pushback
  7. Polish PM and von der Leyen to clash in Brussels next week
  8. MEPs call for improved roaming rules

Feature

Italy on edge as neo-fascists stir violence

Neo-fascist groups are planning new protests in Rome after last weekend's riots, in a heady climate in which the pandemic and immigration have fuelled extremist feeling.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. MEPs urge Sassoli to sue EU Commission on rule of law
  2. MEPs seek EU law on bogus anti-media litigation
  3. Africa seeks EU help on global vaccine-waiver
  4. Giant of 20th century European design recognised by EU
  5. Italy on edge as neo-fascists stir violence
  6. Gas-price spike will backfire on industry, energy guru says
  7. Scientists raise alarm on Greenland's ice-sheet loss
  8. EU calls for ban on Arctic oil and gas drilling

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us