Britain and EU still don't agree on benefits, treaty change

BRUSSELS – British Prime Minister David Cameron and 27 other European Union leaders headed back into talks Friday after marathon overnight negotiations failed to cement a new deal for Britain in the bloc. The broad outlines of an agreement have been in place for weeks but here are some continuing points of contention:


The draft deal offers Britain the chance to temporarily limit some government benefits — notably those to families with children — to immigrants from other EU countries because the “exceptional inflow of workers” to Britain from eastern European EU nations in recent years has placed the U.K. welfare system under a severe strain.

Eastern European countries, however, are putting up resistance over how long the “emergency brake” on benefits would last. Britain is proposing a decade or longer, but Poland and others want it kept to three or four years, according to officials. They also want it made clear that the limit on child benefits won’t extend to other payments such as pensions. There’s no plan to change unemployment benefits; the payments on the table are all made to workers.



Britain is seeking an explicit guarantee that the nine EU countries that don’t use the shared euro currency can’t be steamrollered or sidelined by the 19 countries that do.

But France, in particular, has expressed concern this could lead to non-eurozone nations being able to block decisions by the rest, and could give an advantage to London’s lightly regulated financial district. President Francois Hollande has insisted that Britain should not be given any “right of veto or blockage” and that all EU countries should have rules limiting speculation to avoid new financial crises.



Britain wants protections for non-eurozone countries enshrined in the EU’s core treaty the next time it is amended. Other countries, however, have not yet agreed to this major change — which would require approval in each EU nation — and say it’s unnecessary. Britain also wants the treaty changed to exempt the U.K. from an “ever closer union,” an insistence that has annoyed some of its neighbours, especially Belgium.