1st Feb 2023

British EU welfare plan gets cool reception

  • David Cameron's plans to curb welfare for EU migrants received a cool reception from fellow leaders in talks on Thursday (Photo: Adolfo PM)

David Cameron has received a cool reception for his plans to renegotiate the UK’s EU membership during further talks with EU leaders.

During talks with fellow EU leaders on the margins of the EU-Latin America summit on Thursday (11 June), the prime ministers of Spain and Finland became the latest to express their opposition to reopening the EU treaties, while the leaders of Romania and Belgium were critical of the UK leader’s hopes to deny in-work benefits to EU migrants for four years in a bid to curb immigration.

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A succession of EU leaders have now stressed their wish to help the UK stay in the bloc, but insist that they will not support discrimination against EU workers.

“We believe in Belgium that the principle of free movement of workers is very important, and that non-discrimination and equal rights for European citizens is a very important thing,” Belgian prime minister Charles Michel told reporters.

For his part, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, remarked that “No member state is allowed to treat people coming from elsewhere differently from its own people. But we are in a position where we have to find practical, non-discriminatory solutions which make it possible to treat these kind of problems.”

Earlier this week, Cameron’s finance minister, George Osborne, told financiers that the UK also wanted guarantees that “fairness between the euro-ins and the euro-outs enshrined, and the integrity of the single market preserved.

"It's in our interests that the Euro is a successful, strong currency. So we're prepared to support the Eurozone as it undertakes the further integration it needs. But in return, we want a settlement between the UK and the Eurozone that protects the single market and is stable, fair and lasts,” he said.

Cameron’s government also wants to secure an opt-out from the reference to “ever closer Union” in the preamble to the EU treaties.

The UK prime minister will present his plans to renegotiate his country’s membership of the bloc at the next EU leaders summit on 25-26, as part of a discussion labelled under item four of the summit agenda.

The talks come at the end of a difficult week for Cameron, whose referendum bill, paving the way for a vote in 2016 or 2017, passed through the UK’s House of Commons by a 544 to 53 margin, but will likely face amendments to change the franchise and campaign funding.

Cameron was also forced to climb-down from remarks made on Sunday suggesting that eurosceptic ministers wanting to campaign for a ‘No’ vote would have to resign from the government, which prompted disquiet amongst his governing Conservative party.

In an interview on French radio on Friday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker remarked that the "UK will not leave EU. The British are pragmatic people”.

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