EU yields to Cameron's demands

Britain and other EU member states will have the right to deny welfare benefits to EU migrants for up to four years. The British government has responded positively to this and other proposals put forward by EU Council President Donald Tusk. But can they prevent a Brexit?

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Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

Brexit referendum will change EU either way

Whether it comes to a Brexit or not the changes in the EU will be felt everywhere, the liberal daily Upsala Nya Tidning comments:

“If Britain leaves the EU's clout on the international economic and political stage will of course be diminished. That's why the EU heads of government are willing to make so many concessions to Cameron. … But even if some of the changes to the British EU agreement are symbolic they will change the EU. If the UK goes, the EU will be weakened. If the UK stays presumably those forces that want to turn the EU into a 'two-speed' project will be strengthened, resulting in an 'inner' core that continues to aim for supranationality and an outer group of countries that would have very different ties to the core zone. This is not a desirable scenario in the long term. But the same is true of the UK leaving the EU.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Brexit no longer an issue

With his proposals EU Council President Tusk has found the magic formula that will allow the British to remain in the Union, the liberal daily Jutarnji list writes in praise:

“A referendum is always a risky business, but hopefully the British will now be reasonable and not risk leaving the EU. As difficult as the Union's situation is, there is simply no better option at the moment. And so there is a fair chance that the situation will improve. If the referendum has a positive outcome as expected and Britain remains in the EU, that will be the end of all talk of a Brexit. It's good that a way has been found that allows the opponents to save face while at the same time preserving European unity.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Emergency brake can prevent Brexit

The centre-left daily De Volkskrant agrees in principle with the EU's plan to create an "emergency brake" that will temporarily hinder migrants' access to benefits:

“Hopefully the Eastern European member states will be able to live with the temporary restrictions on benefits for their citizens in the UK. Without concessions in this area the referendum on Britain staying in the EU would almost certainly end in a 'no'. And the UK's departure would be a loss for the EU. … The British are giving a voice to Eurosceptic sentiment not just on their island but in other countries too. Britain plays an important role in the EU, also as a counterweight to the Union's German-French motor. The emergency brake procedure is a good example of this. It is a mechanism that will strengthen democracy in the European Union.”

euinside (BG) /

Why bother keeping London in the EU?

The price the EU seems ready to pay to keep the UK in the EU is too high, warns Adelina Marini on blog euinside:

“[The UK] has the right not to adopt the euro; not to participate in Schengen; to keep its border controls for persons; to choose whether or not to participate in the measures taken in the fields of freedom, security, and justice; has the right not to enforce (starting December 1st 2014) a large part of EU legislation in the sphere of police and judicial cooperation on criminal cases. In other words, Great Britain is more outside the Union than inside it, which poses the question whether in the name of its formal remaining the EU is not going to pay too high a price with the concessions offered.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

EU undermining one of its cornerstones

The EU's plan to allow member states to ban migrants from claiming benefits for up to four years is problematic, the liberal business daily Handelsblatt comments:

“Cameron is preaching to the converted in other European capitals, including Berlin. German local councillors are just as keen to keep Romanians and Bulgarians away from their welfare coffers as London's mayor is. It's true that a growing number of migrants from the EU's poorhouses are cashing in on Hartz IV [German unemployment benefit], child benefit and social security. Some are doing this by exploiting loopholes in national social welfare legislation. It is the task of German legislators to finally close these loopholes. … But instead the EU prefers to undermine one of its cornerstones, the free movement of workers. … The EU is taking a considerable risk from a legal point of view. The European Court of Justice may well ban it from discriminating against EU foreigners in general in its social legislation.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

British PM celebrates hollow victory

Tusk's proposals are a hollow victory for Cameron, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore observes:

“There is a certain tragic absurdity to the fact that in these times of recurring crises the EU is being rocked to its very foundations. … The possibility of a Brexit is pushing it to the brink of the abyss, and all for the sake of a few reforms demanded by London. Are they any good? Some, perhaps. Indispensable? None of them, for no one. Not even for Britain and David Cameron, who for the second time has started off an awkward political row with remarkable unscrupulousness. The risk of a Brexit remains despite the reforms. And Cameron didn't even achieve his real goal: reconciliation between the EU agnostics and Eurosceptics within his Conservative Party. Fans of the EU are seldom to be found anyway among the Tories.”

Libération (FR) /

Eurozone is Europe's core

For the European project to last it must focus on its core countries, the centre-left daily Libération stresses:

“This latest nervous breakdown reminds Europe's leaders that the myth of an EU advancing together is dead and buried. The heart of the common project is the Eurozone, which with 19 countries has reached its maximum size. The urgent task at hand is to integrate and democratise this entity - its survival depends on it - without paying further heed to the other member states. It is time for a Copernican revolution: a new treaty with 19 countries that creates a federal Eurozone, a 'Power Europe'. Only that can prevent Britain and its apprentice states from causing damage. While Germany stands at the ready, France is nowhere to be seen. And this absence is far more dangerous than a Brexit.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Only with Britain is the EU strong

Restrictions on access to welfare benefits for EU migrants will be painful for Poles but better than a Brexit, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza believes:

“After a Brexit the EU would be considerably weaker economically and politically - also vis-à-vis Russia. It would then concentrate even more on its core - the Eurozone. That would work to the detriment of countries that don't have the euro and consequently don't have a say in the most important decisions. And that includes Poland. For that reason it's good that Beata Szydło's government has also signalled its willingness to compromise on the question of migrant workers. ... Yes, Poland must endeavour to limit the negative impact of the reforms on Poles and other migrants to the UK. But at the same time it's better to forego certain rights to welfare benefits if it means protecting the EU from a Brexit.”

Daily Mail (GB) /

Time to regain control over borders

The compromise proposal does not go far enough, the conservative paper Daily Mail criticises:

“Meanwhile, as the politicians posture, on the EU’s southern borders the real threat to European stability grows more menacing by the day. … Germany, Sweden, and Denmark have seen violent demonstrations and across the continent there has been a surge in support for far-Right parties. Unless this tide of humanity can be controlled, the very existence of the EU is under threat. The only solution is to limit free movement and give individual nations back some control over their borders. So it is a damning indictment of the much-vaunted renegotiation, that these crucial matters weren’t even discussed.”

L'Echo (BE) /

London forcing new method on EU

The British government has set a precedent with its demands vis-à-vis the EU, the liberal business paper L'Echo criticises:

“Europe is acting as if it doesn't see the drama unfolding before its eyes. A new method for moving the Union forward is emerging. Until now there were two alternatives. The positive one: we progress together and orient ourselves on the common interests of European citizens (the Commission proposes, the European Parliament and the states decide). The negative one: individual states work out treaties which are then forced on the others. Britain is well on the way to showing that a third method is also viable: blackmail. However these negotiations end, the very fact that they are taking place at all shows that every state can disrupt the work of the community with its own opaque interests.”

Večer (SI) /

The UK would be the biggeest loser

The EU need not worry too much about a Brexit, the liberal daily Večer believes:

“A Brexit may not be such a setback for the EU. … It's more likely that the UK would lose out. Because then Scotland, which didn't vote for independence in the 2014 referendum, may well start pushing the issue once more. The Scots are more well disposed to the EU than the English. Without the backing of the EU Britain would no doubt slip more easily into the role of the US's poodle. And if that happened would anyone be justified in talking about GREAT Britain after 2017?”

More opinions

The Evening Standard (GB) / 04 February 2016
  Tusk has made enough concessions to Cameron
Die Presse (AT) / 03 February 2016
  Fear of Brexit forces Tusk to his knees (in German)