Tusk Says U.K. Plan to Curb Benefits Still Questioned by East EUby
European Union President Donald Tusk said eastern member states remain ambivalent about U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans for an overhaul of the terms of his country’s membership in the bloc, which include demands to restrict social benefits for non-British EU workers.
Speaking after talks with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in Prague on Tuesday, Tusk said his offer to grant the U.K. an “emergency brake” on welfare for new migrants from the EU remains a contentious issue for the Visegrad 4 nations -- Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. The proposals on social benefits and the free movement of workers are still an “open question,” Sobotka said.
Tusk and Cameron have been crisscrossing Europe before an EU summit on Thursday as they separately seek to build support for the overhaul, which could ultimately determine whether the U.K. remains in the bloc. While the Visegrad nations are raising questions about the proposed curbs on social benefits, other euro-area countries, led by France, oppose the U.K.’s demand to shield its banks from rules governing the currency union.
“In the Czech Republic, as well as in the other Visegrad countries, the issue of access to social benefits continues to be among the most sensitive,” Tusk said.
According to recent polls, the outcome of the U.K. referendum on leaving the EU would be uncertain. A House of Lords committee published a report Tuesday saying that Britain’s departure, or “Brexit,” would diminish the effectiveness of foreign policy of both the U.K. and the EU.
Brexit would put at risk 466 billion pounds ($670 billion) of U.K. trade with nations in Europe and beyond, according to a separate report, also published Tuesday, by the Centre for Economic and Business Research.