EU summit wrap-up: Cameron secures compromise deal


EU heads of state and governments met on Thursday and Friday (18-19 February) for a crucial summit to tackle the refugee crisis and avoid Britain’s possible exit from the European Union.

Henriette Jacobsen 20/02/201601:55

Cameron clinches reform deal after benefits compromise

UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday night (19 February) said he would campaign for Britain to stay in a reformed EU, after securing promises of treaty change and compromising on his demands over benefits for EU migrants and their children.

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EURACTIV’s night team is signing off shortly with our last article from the summit.

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James Crisp 19/02/201622:54

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The self-destruct button in case of Brexit is in the deal. As we predicted…

James Crisp 19/02/201622:40

Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen tweets: “Finally, there’s s Brexit deal. Good deal for both the EU and the UK. And tough fight from the Danish side for child benefits indexation for all countries. A victory that I have been fighting for, for years.”

James Crisp 19/02/201622:37

The deal: The emergency brake will last for seven years. Child benefit indexation from 2020. This appears to apply to all member states.

“Ever Closer Union” will not apply to the UK.

There will be some language guaranteeing treaty change.

James Crisp 19/02/201622:32

The deal is done.

Henriette Jacobsen 19/02/201622:25

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James Crisp 19/02/201620:58

AFP reports:

EU officials have drafted proposals to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron’s reform demands that could be “grounds for a deal” at a Brussels summit, Malta’s prime minister said Friday.

Joseph Muscat said the 28 European Union leaders are set to consider the proposals shortly on the second day of the marathon meeting where Cameron has faced resistance to his demands.

“There is a draft that will be tabled in a few minutes’ time. The main points of the draft are a compromise so everyone has to have given a little something,” Muscat told reporters at the summit.

“But I think it is definitely the grounds for a deal hopefully,” he added. “From what we know from the information that we are privy to, we are relatively happy with the final draft and we are ready, all things being equal, to support.”

The Maltese embassy to the EU’s Twitter account quoted him as saying: “Pending any last minute surprises, latest ukineu draft expected to be good compromise.”

Henriette Jacobsen 19/02/201620:58

Daniela Vincenti 19/02/201618:27

A long evening … maybe night After all-night negotiations followed by a day of bilateral meetings to try to iron out differences, the 28 leaders were asked to book hotel rooms for an extra night in Brussels and reconvene at 8 pm. The extension appeared due to last-minute resistance by east European countries to Cameron’s efforts to slash child benefits for EU migrant workers whose children stay in their home country – a measure others such as Denmark are eager to emulate. Cameron had been hoping to fly home and chair a cabinet meeting on Friday to endorse what he calls a “new settlement” with the EU, setting in motion plans to call a referendum on Britain’s future in the Union, probably for June 23.

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A Greek government source told EURACTIV Greece’s Sarantis Michalopoulos that Athens was ready to “disagree” with the final text if there is no provision prohibiting any border closure.

“If there is no assurance [in the final text] that no EU member state will close its borders until the next extraordinary EU-Turkey summit [early March], we will express our disagreement,” the source told EURACTIV, underlining though that Athens “is not using the word veto”.

There is an atmosphere of “compromise”, the source insisted: “Berlin, Rome together with the Commission are pushing toward this direction.”

Frédéric Simon 19/02/201616:46

Belgium PM Charles Michel is now happy with the wording on “ever closer union” reports EURACTIV’s Jorge Valero. One out of the way. Remaining sticking points are:

1) Limits to in-work benefits for EU migrants, which are still opposed by Central and East European countries in the so-called Visegrad group.

Here, EU sources told EURACTIV’s Henriette Jacobsen that current talks are focussing on ways to make the indexation of child benefits applicable to the UK only, in order to placate the Visegrad group (who don’t want the rule extended to other EU countries).

However, this has made Denmark furious. If Britain receives special treatment, then Copenhagen wants to have the same. Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said he would be unable to sell such a deal back home. “The Danes are trying to be firm on this,” the source said. 2) France’s refusal to offer Britain special status when it comes to the EU’s “single rulebook” for regulating the banking sector.

Georgi Gotev 19/02/201616:41

Borissov: EU leaders mentioned ‘apocalyptic figures’ of further migration Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov told the press today (19 February) that EU leaders had mentioned the previous night, during the summit, “apocalyptic figures” of expected future migration to Europe.

“One after the other, my colleagues mentioned apocalyptical figures. Finland, for instance, said one million and a half are waiting on the other side of the border [in Russia]. And we are talking only about Syria. But what will happen in other countries? How many millions will come from Egypt? Five million, some say. I didn’t count them, it’s my colleagues who say so. How many will come from Africa, how many from Morocco? From Algeria, from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan?”

Borissov said that he had reiterated his proposal that the EU should close its external borders, while keeping the internal borders open. He argued that migrants should not be allowed to trespass through the green border or by sea, and only enter through border crossing points, if they qualify to be accepted.

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Frédéric Simon 19/02/201614:53

An EU source told EURACTIV’s Jorge Valero that some progress was made on “ever closer union” despite the continued reservations of Belgium. Negotiators managed to slim down the text since it was very repetitive on the UK exceptionality. At Belgium’s request, it now also reflects the willingness of other member states to integrate further. A sentence will be included during the next EU treaty change to state that the ever closer union does not affect the UK.

Progress was also made on a mechanism allowing non-Eurozone countries like Britain to have a say on Eurozone matters. The Council of Ministers (Ecofin) will be able to raise the issue to the level of European heads of state and governments when they feel their national interest is at stake.

According to an EU source, a single member state will be needed to trigger the mechanism, instead of two or more, like initially envisaged. This will please Cameron who battled for Britain to win access to the procedure without having to seek allies.

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Sarantis Michalopoulos 19/02/201613:46

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande on the sidelines of the summit.

Tsipras asked their help to find a quick solution to the refugee crisis as well as rapidly conclude the first assessment of Greece’s bailout programme.

According to diplomatic sources who spoke to EURACTIV, Merkel and Hollande responded positively to Athens’ request for help in accelerating the first assessment of the country’s bailout. “They were positive; they said they wanted to move on with both issues,” a diplomat stressed.

Frédéric Simon 19/02/201612:04

Here’s why François Hollande is so wary about making concessions to Cameron. The Front National is waiting in the wings and ready to jump on the opportunity.

Frédéric Simon 19/02/201611:50

Here are two of the most difficult outstanding issues in the UK renegotiation:

1) The introduction of a ‘self destruct’ clause in the UK deal. This was introduced by France and Belgium who want to avoid further attempts by Britain to get a better deal at subsequent negotiations in the event of a No vote. This will also ensure the UK won’t organise a second referendum.

2) Conditions and limits to be imposed on the “emergency brake” mechanism aimed at curtailing in-work benefits paid to EU workers in Britain. According to a French source, the mechanism could be invoked if four conditions are met: A) There is a major influx of workers which destabilises the labour market or the social security system of the host country; B) It is duly motivated ; C) It is limited in time; D) It is authorised by the Commission, Parliament and Council (QMV would apply).

Part of the difficulty with the emergency brake is to make this clause applicable to all countries in theory but define it in such a restrictive way that only the UK would be able to benefit from it. The Commission is ready to put a proposal on the table “on the day following a Yes vote in the referendum,” said a diplomat, with a declaration attached saying the UK fulfils the conditions.

Frédéric Simon 19/02/201610:29

It seems France is closing the door on making any substantial concessions to Cameron. Indeed, any special carve-out for Britain will provide a boost for Marine Le Pen, who has appeared publicly saying she would seek to emulate Cameron and demand a ‘Frexit‘ referendum. As François Hollande weighs his chances of re-election at next year’s Presidential poll, he certainly won’t want to make any gesture to the Front National leader who will be among the main contenders in the race.

Frédéric Simon 19/02/201610:15

The UK renegotiation will resume at 11.00 with a new round of bilateral talks. Then an “English lunch” is scheduled at 13.30.

Given the acrimonious nature of the talks last night, it seems increasingly unlikely that an agreement will be found today. Speculation now centres on whether Tusk will prolong the summit into Saturday or break it off and call a 2nd and possibly a 3rd summit to settle the British issue.

This is looking all the more likely since Cameron himself said “it’s much more important to get this right than to do anything in a rush.”

Frédéric Simon 19/02/201610:00

For those arriving late this morning and looking to catch up, here’s a wrap-up of our summit coverage so far. 1) On refugees: – EU and Turkey to hold refugee summit in MarchAustrian cap on asylum-seekers infuriates Commission 2) On the UK’s renegotiation: – Cameron demands 13-year ban on EU migrant benefits at summitEver closer union: the surrealist Brexit summit – And this very sharp (and unfortunately correct) analysis by Denis McShane: Cameron’s lose-lose strategy

James Crisp 19/02/201603:52

That’s a wrap from the night team. We will be back tomorrow for round two of the EU’s Brexit battle.

James Crisp 19/02/201603:52

Cameron demands 13-year ban on EU migrant benefits at summit

British Prime Minister David Cameron told EU leaders on Thursday evening (18 February) that the ‘emergency brake’ to stop EU migrants claiming in-work benefits – a major condition for his support for the UK staying in the bloc – should last for up to 13 years.

James Crisp 19/02/201603:44

That’s the prime minister of Slovenia, who has just tweeted.

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Henriette Jacobsen 19/02/201603:15

Merkel said that EU leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to work with Turkey to mitgate the migration crisis. This work will now be the main focus in the effort to tackle it. The special meeting in March between the EU and Turkey will evaluate what has been achieved so far. Since the EU has already taken many measures, made available additional funds during the EU-Africa summit and the donor summit in London two weeks ago, the German Chancellor believed that the UN’s World Food Programme will have enough funding for this year.

Henriette Jacobsen 19/02/201603:08

Merkel said that Thursday’s Brexit discussion mainly concerned topics such as child benefits indexation, which Germany supports, how Britain leaving the EU would hit financial markets and particularly the debate over “ever closer union”, which highlighted great divisions among member states. The German Chancellor mentioned that many member states feel they are making painful compromises in an attempt to keep Britain in the EU.

James Crisp 19/02/201603:02

But a reaffirmation of the relocation system is a signal of support for Juncker’s approach to the migration crisis. When he first suggested this European approach, EU leaders were not receptive at all.

James Crisp 19/02/201603:01

Juncker suffers double blow on immigration at summit

EU leaders tonight (23 April) dealt Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker a double-blow on immigration at their meeting to discuss the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.

James Crisp 19/02/201603:00

But a reaffirmation of the relocation system is a signal of support for Juncker’s approach to the migration crisis. When he first suggested this European approach, EU leaders were not receptive at all.

James Crisp 19/02/201602:59

Juncker said member states had reaffirmed their commitment to the refugee relocation quota system, which has comprehensively failed so far. Less than 500 refugees were relocated in 2015. See our story below.

James Crisp 19/02/201602:58

Only 3% of Italy and Greece's migrants sent back or settled last year

Only 3% of the more than a million migrants arriving in Italy and Greece in 2015 were returned to their countries of origin or relocated across the EU as refugees,  figures released by the European Commission today (10 February) revealed.

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James Crisp 19/02/201601:54

James Crisp 19/02/201601:17

Time for some music for those night-owls still reading..

James Crisp 19/02/201601:16

James Crisp 19/02/201601:16

Cartoon below shows a guy criticising a nightclub endlessly before asking ‘how much will you pay me to stay?’

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Eurosceptic MEP Dan Hannan is scathing in his assessment.

James Crisp 19/02/201601:04

Britain could benefit from Austria’s decision to impose caps on incoming asylum seekers.

“Britain is a big beneficiary,” said a source. “Everyone just wants to sort this out.”

The Brexit debate has distracted leaders from focusing on the migration crisis, adding impetus behind the push to finalise the deal.

The talks on the settlement deal will continue for a long time. Most leaders will go to bed, but Juncker, Tusk and Cameron will work through the night.

The source said that the Commission might have to intervene with a “common sense solution” if leaders cannot agree on the transition period before Britain’s indexing of child benefit can come in.

James Crisp 19/02/201600:54

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is celebrating the birth of his daughter. Cameron gave him a complete set of Beatrix Potter books. Michel was apparently very touched. Will Peter Rabbit bring the Belgians on-board?

James Crisp 19/02/201600:53

Tusk-Juncker press conference will focus on migration. Bilateral discussions involving Cameron will take place afterwards. Leaders’ discussion on Brexit to resume 11am tomorrow.

James Crisp 19/02/201600:52

EU source says that Visegrad countries’ position on benefits “isn’t about the money, it’s a point of principle”. They don’t want to go home and be accused of being traitors to their own countrymen. Even so the pressure on them to agree is growing.

James Crisp 19/02/201600:47

Britain’s Daily Mail is giving Cameron a kicking on tomorrow’s front page.

Henriette Jacobsen 18/02/201623:48

Henriette Jacobsen 18/02/201622:01

22:01 EU source says the Visegrad countries ‘suddenly’ woke up during the discussion on child benefits which is quite strange, according to the source, since they have known for a long time what was on the table. It’s particularly Czech Republic’s Sobotka who has spoken out against Cameron and called the British Prime Minister’s proposals ‘discriminating’. Cameron is also using a tough language, according to the source, but defends his position because he can’t afford to tone it down.

Henriette Jacobsen 18/02/201621:38

21:23: Poland and about ten other countries have spoken out against Cameron’s demand that the emergency brake on EU migrants claiming in-work benefits lasts for up to 13 years.

They want the brake to only apply to newcomers and to last for just five years in total. Cameron had asked for an initial seven year period with two later possible extensions of three years each.

Meanwhile the Greeks lashed out at Cameron’s proposals for EU migrants. They said they lack solidarity and that social policies are disappearing in Europe at a time where Greek citizens and many others are suffering.

James Crisp 18/02/201620:43

James Crisp 18/02/201620:40

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said at the European Council summit this evening that the UK was the “most reasonable country in Europe when it comes to migration and refugees”. But, he added, British voters would pick Brexit because EU membership meant the UK can’t control its borders.

James Crisp 18/02/201620:20

James Crisp reports on where we now stand

David Cameron has told EU leaders that the emergency brake system to stop EU migrants claiming in work benefits should last for up to 13 years.

Individual migrants would be banned from claiming the benefits for four years, under the proposal.

Cameron also demanded a total ban on benefits for EU migrants’ children living outside of the UK, rather than the indexation system currently on the table. That system would evaluate the cost of living in the country of origin and alter the benefits accordingly.

That could draw support from countries such as Denmark, which has said it wants the child benefits issue looked at tonight’s summit.

The duration of the emergency brake will have a sliding scale, as laid out in Tusk’s draft settlement. But the duration of the three time periods of the sliding scale are up for discussion.

Cameron is pushing for the brake to be in place for an initial seven years with the possibility of extending it for three years, and another three years after that.

EURACTIV understands the seven-year period is too long for some EU leaders. There’s expectation that could be lowered to reach a compromise.

But Cameron has already watered down his initial demands by accepting the sliding scale in the first place.

EU sources said Cameron told EU leaders he wasn’t happy with the deal being watered down.

He said he “could not backtrack” on Tusk’s 2 February draft. Since then the settlement has been watered down further, with a new draft leaked this morning.

That has made some member states nervous he could spring further proposals on them, which are not currently on the table. That could happen during talks after the first session on Brexit later this evening.

Cameron also told leaders that only they should be able to decide when to apply the emergency brake on benefits, pushing back at moves to give the European Parliament greater say in the process.

He will accept that MEPs will have influence over the final emergency brake mechanism when it is debated by them as part of the usual legislative process.

Earlier this week he visited senior MEPs to garner their support for the package.

Issues around “ever closer union”, treaty change and safeguards for the City of London remain contentious this evening in Brussels.

After leaders finish discussing the Brexit deal – which should be any moment now – they will move on to discussing migration.

Those talks have been stalled by the non-appearance of the Turkish Prime Minister, who cancelled his visit because of the bombing in Ankara.

Tusk is expected to use the first Brexit session to plot a course for further talks. Bilateral meetings between leaders are expected to be held this evening.

Meanwhile, diplomats and a “war room” of lawyers will chew over the Brexit text. They are expected to work through the night before presenting leaders with a new text tomorrow.

More political discussions between the heads of state and government will then take place, with a deal hoped for at some point on Friday.

But EU sources said Tusk told EU leaders that they would stay even as late as Saturday to clinch the deal that will allow Cameron to claim victory and back the Remain referendum campaign.

James Crisp 18/02/201620:04

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Daniela Vincenti 18/02/201619:26

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European Parliament President Martin Schulz has been active on Twitter before meeting EU leaders. Here are some of the ones worth mentioning.

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Henriette Jacobsen 18/02/201618:07

18:08: EU source says leaders are now having their first formal working session, entirely devoted to the UK’s EU membership renegotiation. The intention with that working session is not to reach an agreement. Instead, Council President Donald Tusk wants each and every leader to indicate if they have very serious problems with the current text, to get an idea of where the focus during the next many hours will be.

It’s likely that Tusk will then break that session, when he has heard everyone, without making any firm conclusions. It’s more likely that he would then have a conclusion procedure; on how he wants to move forward.

Henriette Jacobsen 18/02/201618:04

18:02: EU source says leaders are now having their first formal

working session, entirely devoted to the UK’s EU membership renegotiation.

The intention with that working session is not to reach an agreement. Instead, Council President Tusk wants each and every leader to indicate if they have very serious problems with the current text, to get an idea of where the focus during the next many hours will be.

It’s likely that Tusk will then break that session, when he has heard everyone, without making any firm conclusions. It’s more likely that Tusk will have a procedure conclusion on how he wants to move forward.

Daniela Vincenti 18/02/201618:00

The European Council press service has released a dramatic video to show Europe just what is at stake at today’s (18 February) long-awaited crunch summit.

Not only are EU leaders talking Brexit but migration is on the agenda, the video intones to suitably Hollywood-trailer style music.That got Heard in Europe thinking. Would the same film have the same impact with a different soundtrack?

Daniela Vincenti 18/02/201617:56

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Commission to propose new Dublin System by April

The European Commission wants to establish a new Dublin System, while Jean-Claude Juncker has praised Angela Merkel’s handling of the crisis. EURACTIV Germany reports.

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Cameron: ‘I will not take a deal that does not meet what we need’

“It is much more important to get this right, that to do this in a rush,” UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron said about the UK’s negotiations on EU membership.

Daniela Vincenti 18/02/201616:47

Poland says it cannot coexist 'with Middle East people'

A dispute over how to shelter 160,000 refugees in Europe got deeper today when Poland said its population is unable to live with people from the Middle East. EURACTIV Greece reports.

The Dutch EU presidency, helped by Germany, Italy and Greece, is trying to convince Eastern European countries to join an EU-wide plan to redistribute …

Daniela Vincenti 18/02/201616:46

Greek minister: NATO will deal a blow to refugee traffickers

NATO’s role in the Aegean will be to deal a blow to refugee traffickers, Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Nikos Xydakis, told EURACTIV on Thursday (18 February). EURACTIV Greece reports.

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15.35: James Crisp reports: Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has questioned the legality of Austria’s new stricter border controls before EU leaders discuss the refugee crisis this afternoon.

Austria yesterday announced it will set a daily cap of 3,200 migrants allowed to enter the country and limit daily asylum claims at 80.

In a letter to Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Avramopoulos urged her to reconsider such “unilateral action”. The Commissioner has repeatedly stressed the importance of coordinated EU-wide action to tackle the migration crisis.In the letter, he cites Commission moves to help Austria deal with the crisis, including a 30% reduction in its refugee relocation quota. Although the letter questions the legality of the new controls, it is not a formal indication of legal action against Austria on behalf of the Commission.

But the executive has launched infringement proceeding against some EU countries for not putting its asylum rules on their national lawbooks.

Georgi Gotev 18/02/201614:35

14.30: Indexing child benefits is coming handy for Dublin The programme of the current Irish government, which faces a General Election on 26 February – in 8 days’ time – contains a commitment to examine the issue of child benefit paid to migrants in respect of non-resident children. The Government commitment was to “seek to have the entitlement modified to reflect the cost of living where a child is resident”.

This suggests that the Danish Government will not be the only one requesting that any UK concession have EU-wide application. But this EU-wide application for child benefits is already accepted, it seems. It remains to be seen, however, if the British people will vote to stay in the EU. If not, the whole package becomes void. Still, the package can help at least one Prime Minister – Ireland’s Enda Kenny.

Georgi Gotev 18/02/201614:27

14.10: Team building

The three leading pro-European groups, EPP, PES and ALDE, are holding right now their pre-summit meetings. These pre-summit meetings look like some sort of team building.

But Slovak PM Robert Fico never attends PES meetings. For him and for others, the Visegrad summits are more important. It doesn’t matter if Fico and Czech Republic’s Bohulav Sobotka both are from PES because Poland’s Beata Szydlo is affiliated to Cameron’s ECR, while Hungary’s Orban belongs to the centre-right EPP. Simply, Visegrad meetings have suddenly become a much more important form of team building.

Looks like it’s not about ideology, it’s more about being politically correct, and Visegrad is saying that they doubt that political correctness will solve the migrant crisis issues.

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Georgi Gotev 18/02/201612:25

12.20: Juncker and Schulz sound optimistic

Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he was confident EU leaders would reach a deal on reforms to keep Britain in the bloc at the summit starting today at 17.00. “I’m quite confident that we will have a deal during this European Council. We have to sort out a certain number of questions,” Juncker told a news conference with European Parliament President Martin Schulz. “And I am convinced that Britain will be constructive and active member of the European Union,” he said, speaking in English. Switching to German, Juncker said: “It’s not done yet, but it will be done at the end of the day”, then added that there is still “a big need to talk”.

Georgi Gotev 18/02/201612:20

12.00: NGOs voice appeals to the EU leaders Avaaz Members are sending thousands of messages to European leaders this morning. They are calling for swift action on the 160.000 relocation program and are writing to Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Matteo Renzi as well as Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Mark Rutte. This comes on the back of a 1,2 million strong petition for a humane refugee policy by the EU to stop the drownings in the Mediterranean. The majority of EU citizens want a fair distribution of refugees and unity in burden sharing – says a new Bertelsmann poll the poll shows deliberative position of European Citizens – even among those skeptical of recent arrivals, there is strong support for a common European policy.

Here are the latest official numbers – out of the agreed 160.000, 583 have beenrelocated: 288 from Italy, 295 from Greece.

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11:30 Leaked conclusions The latest draft of the conclusions was leaked this morning to the Financial Times.According to pro-Brexit Vote Leave the few substantive changes enhance the EU’s power over the UK.

The ‘emergency brake’ has been further watered down. The new text states that the brake will only apply to ‘non-contributory in-work benefits’. The original draft applied to all ‘in-work benefits’. Maintaining EU legislative and spending powers. A clause has been added to the recitals stating that the decision respects ‘the powers of the institutions of the Union, including throughout the legislative and budgetary procedures’. This makes clear the powers of the EU to legislate over the UK and to demand the payment of £350 million per week are unchanged by the renegotiation. Maintaining Eurozone powers over the City of London. The so-called safeguards on the ‘economic governance’ have been watered down. The new draft has added a clause stating: ‘The single rulebook is to be applied by all credit institutions and other financial institutions in order to ensure the level-playing field within the internal market’. The new draft also states that the Bank of England’s ability to regulate the economy is ‘subject to the requirements of group and consolidated supervision and resolution’, making clear the European Central Bank will retain powers to regulate the UK’s financial services. Emphasising EU control over social security. A clause has been added to the welfare section stating that: ‘The Commission does not intend to propose that the future system of optional indexation of child benefits be extended to other types of exportable benefits, such as old-age pensions’. This makes clear that the Commission, not the UK Parliament, will remain in control of the UK’s welfare system.

Georgi Gotev 18/02/201608:09

08.09: Choreography of a crunch summit

Cameron to get his EU deal over English breakfast

With a prospect of late-night talks after the first day of the EU summit opening today (18 February), Council President Donald Tusk has scheduled an “English breakfast” tomorrow in hope of a final compromise to help UK Prime Minister David Cameron to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in the Brexit referendum.

Frédéric Simon 18/02/201607:59

07.56: Some key dates in Britain’s tumultuous relationship with the EU.

Key dates in Britain's relationship with the EU

Prime Minister David Cameron could agree a reform package at a summit in Brussels starting Thursday (18 February), paving the way for a referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union as early as June.

Frédéric Simon 18/02/201607:57

07.56: Mini-summit with Turkish PM called off after Ankara blast.

Ankara terrorist attack prevents Davutoglu from attending Brussels mini-summit

Twenty-eight people were killed and dozens wounded in Turkey’s capital Ankara yesterday (17 February) when a car laden with explosives detonated next to military buses near the armed forces’ headquarters, parliament and other government buildings.

Matthew Hawker 18/02/201602:36

03:30 Visegrad Group wants to see substantial drop of the number of incoming migrants

A diplomat from a Visegrad country told journalists in Brussels that their group wants to see numbers of migrants coming from Turkey to Greece going down, “substantially and sustainably”.

The diplomat was asked to comment the joint statement of the Visegrad summit, which says: “[…] an alternative back-up plan – ready for implementation – should be developed in case the progress in border protection and cooperation with Turkey falls short of expectations. The March European Council should then decide on the next steps.”

He replied that the current number of migrants’ arrivals from Turkey to Greece was around 2.000 per day, in spite of the winter season. He said that this number needed to drop “to tens, hundreds”. “We cannot talk about thousands”, he added.

He also said that the messages of the Visegrad summit were wrongly interpreted. The Visegrad group doesn’t come up with alternative solutions, but with complementary measures, he said.

Regarding the “alternative back-up plan”, which is mentioned three times in the joint statement, the diplomat agreed that the wording used was not politically correct.

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201623:41

18:00 EURACTIV France reports: EU hopes legal gymnastics will avoid Brexit

EU hopes legal gymnastics will avoid Brexit

The draft text granting further concessions in the United Kingdom will not be a classic European Council decision, but an international agreement. EURACTIV France reports.

Matthew Hawker 17/02/201623:12

18:00 EURACTIV France reports: EU hopes legal gymnastics will avoid Brexit

EU hopes legal gymnastics will avoid Brexit

The draft text granting further concessions in the United Kingdom will not be a classic European Council decision, but an international agreement. EURACTIV France reports.

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201617:27

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201617:20

17:00 Scapegoating greece for refugeecrisis is hypocritical. Other governments also not living up to commitments Solving the problems of the Schengen area will not stop Europe’s refugee crisis. This is a foreign policy crisis with domestic spill-over; it has to be solved abroad as well as at home, say Rem Korteweg, Camino Mortera-Martinez, from the Centre for European Reform.

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201617:17

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201616:39

16:20 EURACTIV’s James Crisp reports that the first tour de table will begin with the debate on Brexit. A dinner will follow when leaders will discuss the refugee crisis. Brexit will follow for as long as necessary during the night. Tusk will decide whether to initiate bilateral meetings. A deal is not expected to take shape before the morning ‘for an early breakfast, a brunch or a late lunch. It is very difficult to speculate,” French diplomatic sources said.

The dinner debate on migration is important but not take new decisions, rather to reaffirm what was agreed in December. Only the hotspots and the EU-Turkey deal are up for discussion.

“We insist that the country of first arrival must take responsibility, with assistance from other member states,” the source argued, quoting article 26 of the Schengen treaty which allows members of the 26-country zone to reintroduce internal border controls for a maximum of two years in exceptional circumstances.

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201616:12

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201615:59

14:30 Visegrad group doesn’t want indexation to be extended to other categories than child benefits

A diplomat from a Visegrad country told journalists in Brussels that the group has agreed that the child benefits for children living in their country of origin be indexed to the level of child benefits of the respective member country.

However, he said that a concern of his group was that indexation should only apply to child benefits, and not to any other category, as pensions for example.

“The child indexation will apply horizontally, to all member states. What we don’t want to see that the indexation applies to other benefits, unemployment benefits, pensions or you name it,” he said.

Whether the indexation of child benefits should apply for the newly arrived EU migrants only or for those who already live in another EU country, the diplomat said there were some legal issues, and indicated that it was not a primary concern for his group.

“Some of the member states jumped on this,” the diplomat said, referring to appetites from countries other than the UK to index social benefits to the lower levels of the central and east European countries.

Regarding the in-work benefits, the diplomat said that the aim was to have a very precise formulation which would limit the scope of the “emergency break” only to the UK case.

“Legally, it’s not possible that the agreement applies only to the UK,” the diplomat said.

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201613:17

Austria moves to ‘plan B’, defies EU-wide solution to refugee crisis

Austria announced  it would step up controls along its southern borders on Tuesday (16 February), edging closer to Eastern European member states in their defiance of Germany’s push for an EU solution to the migrant crisis.

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201613:00

13:00 Gesine Schwan: Refugee crisis has exposed EU’s ‘pseudo-solidarity’

Gesine Schwan: Refugee crisis has exposed EU's ‘pseudo-solidarity’

Whether it’s the refugee or financial crisis, Germany always stands in the way of European solidarity, endangering the entire EU, warned Gesine Schwan in an interview with EURACTIV Germany.

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201612:00

12:00 Vimont: Brexit negotiations would be ‘terrible’

Vimont: Brexit negotiations would be ‘terrible’

If the British vote to leave the EU, the negotiations with the rest of the Union for settling the divorce will be terrible and hugely complicated, analysts warned on Wednesday (17 November).

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201608:42

8:42 Chronicle of a perfect storm announced

Top MEPs are concerned that a possible Brexit could lead to the collapse of the European Union. The issue was raised during the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament held yesterday (16 February). The EU is facing overlapping crises and a rise of populisms that may herald for the “perfect storm” and the collapse of the Union.

MEPs fear Brexit will trigger ‘perfect storm’ and EU breakup

Leading MEPs have expressed the view that a possible Brexit would trigger the collapse of the European Union, EURACTIV has learned.

Daniela Vincenti 17/02/201608:07

8:07 Austria another enfant terrible

Austria announced it would step up controls along its southern borders on Tuesday (16 February), edging closer to Eastern European member states in their defiance of Germany’s push for an EU solution to the migrant crisis. The measures will be implemented at 12 existing checkpoints along frontiers with Italy, Slovenia and Hungary to slow down the influx.

Austria moves to ‘plan B’, defies EU-wide solution to refugee crisis

Austria announced  it would step up controls along its southern borders on Tuesday (16 February), edging closer to Eastern European member states in their defiance of Germany’s push for an EU solution to the migrant crisis.

Daniela Vincenti 16/02/201613:00

13:00 Cameron fails to get EU Parliament assurances over emergency brake

David Cameron met leading MEPs on Tuesday (16 February) in Brussels but failed convince them that they needed to pass unchanged the so-called emergency brake mechanism to stop new EU migrants to Britain claiming in-work benefits.

Cameron fails to get EU Parliament assurances over emergency brake

UK Prime Minister David Cameron today (16 February) in Brussels failed to gain assurances from European Parliament leaders that they would pass unchanged the so-called emergency brake mechanism to stop new EU migrants to Britain claiming in-work benefits.

Daniela Vincenti 16/02/201608:57

8:57 Merkel warns against gains for British banks under ‘Brexit’ deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a meeting of her conservative Christian Democratic parliamentary group on Tuesday that she hoped EU leaders could reach a fair deal with Britain, one that would prevent the City of London to get an advantage over the eurozone through lighter regulation.

Merkel warns against gains for British banks under 'Brexit' deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants a fair deal to help keep Britain in the European Union that avoids giving Britain’s financial sector an advantage over the eurozone

Daniela Vincenti 16/02/201608:00

Visegrad countries call for ‘alternative plan’ to counter migration crisis

After meeting in Prague, the leaders of Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, the so-called Visegrad Four (V4) group, gave a 17-March deadline to decide if the measures proposed by the European Commission to stop refugees produced the necessary result or not. If the measures proved ineffective, they called for an alternative back-up plan.

Daniela Vincenti 16/02/201608:00

Tusk’s pre-summit tour

At the beginning of the week, Council President Donald Tusk toured five European capitals in an attempt to defuse contentious issues ahead of the EU summit on 18-19 February, dedicated to renegotiating the relation between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The other issue of the summit is the migration crisis.

Tusk tells Romania that his proposal on social benefits is ‘fair’

Council President Donald Tusk assured Romania yesterday (15 February) that the proposal he has put on the table ahead of the EU summit intended to address the UK concerns is fair and balanced. EURACTIV Romania reports.

After meeting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Monday (15 February), Tusk met with French President François Hollande, and met Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday.

Daniela Vincenti 16/02/201608:00

France and Britain on a collision course over banking union

Cameron and François Hollande were unable to agree on the EU’s future economic governance during a meeting on Monday (15 February) in Paris. If discussions centred in the French capital, it was because the power struggle between the EU and the UK has in recent weeks morphed into a direct confrontation between Paris and London. EURACTIV France reports.

France refuses to unpick banking union to appease Cameron

Despite a marathon day of negotiations in Paris, David Cameron and François Hollande were unable to agree on the EU’s future economic governance. EURACTIV France reports.