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Donald Tusk hoping for EU Agreement in February 2016

December 13, 2015 3:45 PM
By George Smid - PPC South Holland and the Deepings

George Smid 1David Cameron has not been very lucky lately with his letter writing. One letter to a local councillor in Oxfordshire scored an own political goal, charges of hypocrisy and ministerial misconduct. Another letter to the president of European Council, did not even warrant a reply. Donald Tusk wrote 'in response' but not back to David Cameron. He addressed his letter to the European Council where he refers to David Cameron in third person.

I cannot help noticing the dynamic between our Prime Minister, setting outlines for his 'In or Out' referendum, and the European Leaders who will agree beforehand where we stand on the issue of a UK in/out referendum before we address it at the December European Council. Is this the illustration of the future, where we in the UK will be reduced to asking questions the European Leaders who will then let us know 'where they stand on the issue'? I hope not.

So what is 'the stand' on Cameron's four demands? I have put together the excerpt from the PM's letter and David Tusk's response for you to compare. I have allowed myself a short remark at the end of each demand.

1. Economic Governance

David Cameron: There are today effectively two sorts of members of the European Union. There are Euro members and non-Euro members…. …we want to make sure that [any] changes will respect the integrity of the Single Market, and the legitimate interests of non-Euro members.

Donald Tusk:We are also looking into the possibility of a mechanism that will …. [allow] Member States that are not in the euro the opportunity to raise concerns, and have them heard, …… , without this turning into a veto right.

George: Donald is telling Dave: it is your decision whether you are in a Euro zone or not: "you pays your money and you takes your choice"

2. Competitiveness

David Cameron: …, the burden from existing regulation is too high. .. the United Kingdom would like to see a target to cut the total burden on business. The EU should also do more to fulfil its commitment to the free flow of capital, goods and services. … we should bring …… a clear long-term commitment to boost the competitiveness and productivity of the European Union and to drive growth and jobs for all.

Donald Tusk:On competitiveness, there is a very strong determination to promote this objective … Everybody agrees on the need …[of] better regulation and on lessening the burdens on business while maintaining high standards. The contribution of trade to growth is … important …, in particular trade agreements with fast growing parts of the world.

George: The only clause where D & D seem to be in a full agreement.

3. Sovereignty

David Cameron: …questions of sovereignty have been central to the debate about the European Union in Britain for many years …First, I want to end Britain's obligation to work towards an "ever closer union" …. Second, I want …. groups of national parliaments, acting together [to] stop unwanted legislative proposals. …Third, I want to see the EU's commitments to subsidiarity fully implemented, … As the Dutch have said … "Europe where necessary, national where possible".

Donald Tusk:The third basket concerns sovereignty. There is wide agreement that the concept of "ever closer union among the peoples" allows for various paths of integration for different countries. …. There is also a largely shared view on the importance of the role of national parliaments within the Union as well as strong emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity.

George: Donald dodged the decision. David wants an end to 'ever closer union', Donald 'allows for various paths of integration'.

4. Immigration

David Cameron: ….we have got to be able to cope with all the pressures that free movement can bring … Right now, the pressures are too great.…. we need to be able to exert greater control on arrivals from inside the EU …. we do want … to allow the UK to restore a sense of fairness to our immigration system and to reduce the current very high level of population flows from within the EU into the UK. … We also need to crack down on the abuse of free movement, …. This includes tougher and longer re-entry bans for fraudsters and people who collude in sham … we need … to reduce the numbers coming here … we [need to reduce] the draw that our welfare system can exert across Europe. So we have proposed that people coming to Britain from the EU must live here and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing.

Donald Tusk: The fourth basket on social benefits and the free movement of persons is the most delicate and will require a substantive political debate at our December meeting. …. there is presently no consensus on the request that people coming to Britain from the EU must live there and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing.

George: Whilst DT is talking about 'the fourth basket on social benefits', DC wants "re-entry bans for fraudsters and people who collude in sham". Are they talking about the same things? Disagreement declared.

What next?

David Cameron: I look forward to a substantive discussion at the December European Council. It remains my aim to conclude an agreement at the earliest opportunity, but the priority is to get the substance right.

Donald Tusk: We need some more time to sort out the precise drafting on all of these issues, including the exact legal form the final deal will take. We also have to overcome the substantial political differences that we still have on the issue of social benefits and free movement. The December European Council should address all the political dilemmas related to this process…. we should be able to prepare a concrete proposal to be finally adopted in February.

George: February highlighted by me. Is that the first reference date on the EU Referendum planning?

I am aware that my arbitrary quotations will be different from what others would choose to quote. The full letter of David Cameron is here, the response of Donald Tusk is here. Also, my and others views of the demands are purely personal. The Tory press talks about Sovereignty, Fairness, Immigration and Growth. Less friendly analysts talk about Sovereignty, Euro, Competitiveness and Migration. My feeling is that we are talking about self-inflicted MESS: Migration, Euro, Sovereignty, Strength (or weakness as the case might be).

Unfortunately, I can see the whole referendum being hi-jacked by two issues only: migration and sovereignty, both of them badly defined and badly presented. Now we can only wait what will happen next week when the European Council decides how to react. Then we have to be ready to react on their reaction.