Friday

10th Apr 2020

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

Support quality EU news

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.

Analysis

How the EU's virus-alert agency failed

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, an EU agency, was meant to highlight threats from infectious diseases, but it painted a rosy picture of Covid-19.

Opinion

Why Europe must act now, and on a big scale

It is still very likely that Europe will face a new deadly spread of the virus next autumn or winter. Until a reliable vaccine and cure are in place, we all have to live in this new reality.

News in Brief

  1. Migrants trapped on boat in Tripoli due to shelling
  2. EU anti-crisis budget 'could be up to €1.5 trillion'
  3. Western Balkan states appeal for EU help with masks
  4. Spain's lockdown could be extended until 10 May
  5. IMF: Pandemic crisis will be worse than great depression
  6. German economy minister expects progress on EU deal
  7. Italian PM: EU is at risk if no deal on recovery plan
  8. Belgian region to block EU Green Deal

Opinion

Coronavirus sees approval-rating soar for EU leaders

The rise in support for mainstream parties has been paired with stagnation or decline for far-right populist parties and figures - the AfD has dropped to 10 percent in Germany and Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini are treading water.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. How the EU's virus-alert agency failed
  2. Flemish nationalists torpedo Belgium Green Deal pledge
  3. Eurozone agreed €500bn cushion against virus blow
  4. Why Europe must act now, and on a big scale
  5. EU court blocks Poland's bid to 'frighten' judges
  6. Coronavirus sees approval-rating soar for EU leaders
  7. EU science chief who 'quit' had been told to resign
  8. EU delays 'exit strategies' plan, as WHO urges caution

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us