Thursday

25th May 2017

Cameron urges EU concessions on welfare

  • Cameron (l): 'British people and I want a system where you have to pay in before you get [something] out' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

British prime minister David Cameron said on Friday (29 January) he had made progress on talks in Brussels over the UK’s membership of the EU, but not enough to clinch a deal at the next summit of EU leaders in February.

Cameron was in Brussels to meet with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.

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  • Meeting with Juncker lasted more than one hour (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Both EU institutions are key to the talks, as they would have to agree to any legislative changes Cameron’s deal on reforming the UK’s relationship with the EU might entail.

A crucial point in Cameron’s demands over Britain’s relationship with the EU is curbing welfare benefits for EU workers for four years, a proposal criticised by eastern European countries.

The British prime minister told Sky News after talks that they had made progress on Friday, but it remained insufficient.

“The British people and I want a system where you have to pay in before you get [something] out,” he said.

“We have made progress today, but its not enough,” Cameron said.

The meeting with Juncker at the working lunch, which lasted over an hour and a half, was described as “difficult, but constructive” by a commission spokeswoman, who added that work will continue over the weekend.

EP president Schulz said that we are entering a “decisive moment” in preparing the UK referendum.

Draft proposal

Cameron is to meet EU Council president Donald Tusk in London on Sunday. Tusk is expected come forward with a draft proposal for the member states on Monday on how to accommodate the British demands.

Tusk then will circulate his proposals among the EU capitals, and there is no guarantee fellow member states will agree before or at the February summit to the deal between Brussels and London.

On the crucial point of curbing benefits, in recent weeks the idea has emerged of introducing “emergency brakes” once a country’s welfare system is overwhelmed.

The brake could be requested by Britain for up to four years, if it could prove Britain's social and welfare system is under excessive strain from migration.

The brake would have to be approved by the other EU member states.

That might make it problematic for Cameron to argue to British voters that they stay in the EU, if the ultimate decision on curbing benefits is left to other countries.

John Redwood, a member of Conservatives for Britain, a group campaigning to leave the EU, told the BBC earlier on Friday that the brake proposal fell “well short” in the need for Britain to regain control of its borders.

“It says we have to beg, in extreme circumstances, for the permission of the rest of the EU to not make payments we don't want to make - it's simply a bad joke,” Redwood said.

It’s unclear yet how the emergency brake work in practice.

Earlier in the day, Cameron told the BBC that progress was being made but there was “a long way to go” before he could agree to the plan, and that the proposals on the table at the moment “were not strong enough”.

“I won't agree to something unless it has the force and the weight that we need to solve the problems that we have,” he said ahead of his meetings with EU officials in Brussels.

Cameron meets EU officials, as UK deal gets closer

Cameron is holding talks with EU officials on the UK's membership on Friday and Sunday as a deal might be within reach, with an "emergency break" on welfare benefits for EU workers.

Cameron holds referendum talks with Juncker

Cameron cancelled visits to Denmark and Sweden on Friday to "take stock" of UK membership talks with EU Commission president Juncker. Progress update expected next week.

Cameron 'not in a hurry' for EU deal

British PM David Cameron has said in Davos he is not in a hurry to hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership, setting the stage for a possible delay on a deal expected to be closed in February.

Cameron asks Germans to help keep Britain in EU

The British prime minister appeals to Germans to help achieve his proposed changes to the European Union that would help keep Britain in the bloc, and said he is not challenging the freedom of movement.

'No deal yet' in EU-UK talks

Discord on welfare restrictions and eurozone vetoes prompted Tusk and Cameron to prolong talks in London, with a draft Brexit deal now expected on Tuesday.

EU and British officials intensify Brexit diplomacy

Secret talks continued on Cameron's proposals for reforming the UK's EU membership on Monday, as the EU summit looms. EU Council chief Donald Tusk will table a proposal Tuesday at noon.

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, says the defeat of his social-democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia is "difficult". The elections showed that a "Schulz effect" does not (yet) exist.

Austria heading for snap elections

Foreign minister Kurz has taken leadership of the conservative party in what could lead to an alliance with the far-right.

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