Brexit: Tusk responds to Cameron's EU membership demands

EU Council chief suggests partial agreements to UK Prime Minister's demands to cap migrant welfare benefits.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

02 Feb 2016

European Council President Donald Tusk has unveiled his response to UK Prime Minister David Cameron's demands, ahead of renegotiations on Britain's EU membership. A June referendum on a potential Brexit now seems more likely than ever, with Tusk offering a number of concessions.

On Cameron's most controversial and divisive request - restricting in-work welfare benefits for EU migrants for up to four years - the Council chief confirmed that member states would be able to appeal for an 'emergency brake' on such benefits, should the country's welfare system be under strain. However, such a move will be subject to approval by all member states.

Nevertheless, EU officials appeared to indicate that this would not be a problem, with the European Commission saying that it, "considers that the kind of information provided to it by the United Kingdom shows the type of exceptional situation that the proposed safeguard mechanism is intended to cover exists in the United Kingdom today. Accordingly, the United Kingdom would be justified in triggering the mechanism in the full expectation of obtaining approval."


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David Cameron had also taken issue with 'ever closer union' remaining in the EU treaties. Tusk responded; "On sovereignty, the proposed Decision of the Heads recognises that - in light of the United Kingdom's special situation under the treaties - it is not committed to further political integration."

On economic governance, the Council promised to, "ensure mutual respect between the member states taking part in further deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and those which do not. By doing that, we can pave the way for the further integration within the euro area while safeguarding the rights and competences of non-participating member states."

"Emergency and crisis measures addressed to safeguarding the financial stability of the euro area will not entail budgetary responsibility for member states whose currency is not the euro, or, as the case may be, for those not participating in the banking union."

Essentially, this means that those paying tax in non-eurozone countries will not be liable to support the eurozone in the event of a further crisis.

Tusk also promised to work on measures to increase the EU's competiveness and cut red tape.

The Council and Commission's proposals will be discussed at the EU summit on 17-18 February. Tusk insisted that he was, "convinced the proposal is a good basis for a compromise", though he did concede that, "there are still challenging negotiations ahead."

He also repeated the immortal EU policymaking line, "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said, "Draft EU renegotiation document shows real progress in all four areas where UK needs change but there's more work to do", leading observers to believe he is still holding out for a triumphant victory at the summit.

A contentious area in the talks is the subject of immigration, with EU officials refusing to budge on the free movement of people - a fundamental EU right - something Eurosceptics are staunchly opposed to.

 

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