Wednesday

2nd Dec 2020

Britain wants labour law opt-out in return for treaty change

British Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to have a "constructive" look at an upcoming treaty change German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for, but in return, he wants a reinforced British opt-out from EU labour laws.

A joint press conference on Friday (18 November) in Berlin there was a clear display of the differences between the two leaders when it comes to EU economic governance, a tax on financial transactions and the "limited" change to the EU treaty that Germany insists on.

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

  • Berlin and London agree on little when it comes to the EU (Photo: REGIERUNGonline/Kugler)

Berlin wants the European Commission and the European Court of Justice to act as the judge and jury for any eurozone members that break the fiscal rules.

Cameron agreed to have a "constructive" attitude towards the treaty change, which Britain could still veto. In return, he wants to regain powers from Brussels, for instance in regards to a possible revamping next year of an EU law on the maximum working week.

With a considerable minority in his Conservative party demanding a referendum on exiting the EU, Cameron is keen to avoid any treaty change that may require a plebiscite in his country - a vote that would all most certainly go against staying in the bloc. Merkel explained that the limited change will only apply to the 17 eurozone countries. But it has to be agreed by all 27 EU member states.

She did not mention EU labour laws in her press conference. And diplomats in Brussels have so far not discussed any EU labour law opt-outs in connection to the treaty change proposals to be tabled by Council chief Herman Van Rompuy next month.

But it is true that German and British positions have converged on the working-week legislation in the past, one diplomat told this website. Neither Berlin nor London want doctors or fire fighters who are on call to be considered as working full time, as possible changes to the directive may entail.

"For now, labour unions and employer associations have said they want to change the directive. If they agree and table a proposal, member states can agree or reject it, without changing the text. But for now there is no such proposal," one EU source said.

UK referendum vote highlights anti-EU feeling

British MPs have voted against a referendum on EU membership. But Prime Minister David Cameron indicated he will try to claw back EU powers in an upcoming review of the Treaty.

Merkel's party calls for eurozone exit clause

With Germany pushing for a change to the EU treaty in order to toughen up economic governance, an EU resolution agreed Monday by Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party gives an idea of Berlin's thinking on the matter.

Opinion

Cameron needs to bring home the bacon

The UK premier will have to bring home some very definite commitments from Brussels to make it up for the promised referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and silence his eurosceptic critics, writes Helen Szamuely.

London could make EU 'unravel'

An attempt by Britain to rewrite the EU rulebook to reflect domestic interests could make the European Union fall apart, its top official has warned.

EU pushes back against rising homophobia

The EU Commission plans a proposal to ensure recognition children-parent relations in cross border situations, and legislation to support the mutual recognition of parenthood between member states.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. EU law needed to protect free press, NGOs say
  2. Socialists demand resignation of EU border-agency chief
  3. Orbán ally admits he was at Brussels lockdown 'sex party'
  4. Legal battle over oil giant Shell's emissions begins
  5. Chance for Christian Democrats to draw line against extremism
  6. Frontex takes transparency activists to EU court
  7. EU's opportunity to curb online politics ads
  8. China and Russia encircling divided Western allies

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us