9th Dec 2019

EU and British officials intensify Brexit diplomacy

  • Tusk will share a draft EU-UK deal with member states on Tuesday (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

EU and British officials held intensive talks on Monday (1 February) in the latest effort to hammer out a deal for the UK’s reformed membership of the EU, which will then have to be approved by fellow member states.

Early evening, European Council president Donald Tusk announced he would table a "proposal for a new settlement" of Britain's EU membership Tuesday at noon.

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All day EU and British officials had met in what sources described as a “small, restricted circle” to finalise a draft text.

Continued talks came after British prime minister David Cameron and EU Council president Donald Tusk failed on Sunday to come to an agreement on Cameron’s proposals.

“Progress has been made on political and technical level, however we are not there yet,” an EU Commission spokesman said.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he added.

Time is running out for Cameron, who hoped to clinch the deal with EU leaders at their 18 and 19 February summit, and put the UK’s EU membership to a referendum in June.

EU policy advisors to governments, the “sherpas”, and EU ambassadors are set to discuss details on Friday before the summit.

One sticking point where the EU side seems to have backed down is curbing in-work benefits for EU workers in Britain for four years through a so-called “emergency brake.”

Some member states, particularly from eastern Europe, criticised Cameron’s proposal for being discriminatory and for going against EU principles on free movement.

The brake would allow London to immediately stop benefit payments to EU migrants in Britain.

“We still have to see the actual text, but we want would like the trigger for the brake to be objective, evidence-based, and for the Council [member states] to be involved in the decision-making,” an official from an eastern European country told this website on the possible mechanism.

Another tricky debate has emerged on eurozone governance, where France raised concerns.

Cameron wants to make sure no decisions are taken that are detrimental to the UK’s financial interests by being able to delay votes on sensitive issues in the EU Council.

France and other eurozone countries want to make sure the UK has no veto over their monetary policy.

“The idea of the delay has been floated for some time. The question is how long will the UK be able to delay decisions, what will be the sequencing, but safeguards for the UK are not a problem in principle,” a diplomat from a eurozone country told this website.

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