James Crisp. Freelance journalist in Brussels.

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Juncker tells divided MEPs to back EU-UK Brexit deal

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today in Strasbourg (3 February) told Members of the European Parliament to back the deal struck by David Cameron and Donald Tusk to keep Britain in the EU.

“You must all understand the European Parliament must be signed up to support the settlement,” he said. “The settlement is fair for the UK, the EU member states and the European Parliament.”

But UKIP leader, and MEP, Nigel Farage blasted it. “There is no treaty change, no control over our borders, in fact no changes at all. It was hardly worth the wait,” he said.

The settlement was unveiled yesterday after nine months of secret talks in Brussels between UK diplomats and European Council President Donald Tusk’s team.

Meanwhile in London, British Prime Minister Cameron urged MPs in Westminster to unite behind his drive to agree a series of European Union reforms at a crunch Brussels summit.

“Let’s fight this together,” Cameron said as he defended the series of draft proposals that have angered Eurosceptics from his own Conservative Party, before saying the referendum date would not be too soon after regional elections planned for 5 May.

The European Parliament will be involved in talks ahead of the 18 February showdown summit with EU leaders on the deal. MEPs will eventually have to vote on whether to pass the “emergency brake” law to curtail new EU migrants to Britain claiming benefits, making their support for the watered down deal vital.

That will only happen if the UK votes to stay in in the referendum, which is expected in June. The brake will take at least a year after that to get onto the lawbooks.

Instead of the outright four year ban on arriving EU migrants claiming benefits promised by Cameron in his election manifesto, migrants will be able to gradually increase their handouts over time.

Farage said the humiliation of Britain would continue at the crunch meeting in Brussels, where EU leaders would negotiate the deal.

“Like Oliver Twist, Mr Cameron will parade in front of other leaders and say, ‘please can I have some more concessions’ and I am sure of one thing, he won’t get another thing,” Farage said in the debate.

He said, “It’s hardly an emergency brake, it’s more of a handbrake turn.”

One UKIP MEP shouted, “It’s a tea break” – before the Eurosceptic party was scolded for continued heckling by Parliament President Martin Schulz.

>>Read: EU ‘Brexit’ deal fails to deliver on migrants’ benefits, treaty change

Juncker hit back. “Apart from the UKIP representatives and other political parties on the extreme wings of this house, all members of all political parties have pleaded to keep the UK in the EU.”

He blamed Britain for not using phase in periods for migration offered by the EU in 2004, after ten countries, many from Eastern Europe, joined the bloc in 2004.

“The UK will be allowed to use the [emergency brake] mechanism to redress the effects of that decision,” Juncker said.

But that did not convince Manfred Weber and Gianni Pitella, the leaders of the two largest political groups in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats.

Weber said the deal was a “sound basis for further discussion,” but warned, “we don’t want only a British Europe, we want a Europe for all”. Pitella demanded “more clarity over the issue of workers’ rights”.

Juncker also admitted that the EU was struggling to deal with the migration crisis that has seen countries in the bloc throw up border controls in the passport-free Schengen area.

“At the moment, we haven’t got an awful lot to be proud of,” he said. “Some are saying this is a psychodrama where Europe is falling apart little by little.”

>>Read: Whole story on EurActiv

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This entry was posted on February 4, 2016 by in Brexit, Journalism, UK, UK politics, UKIP and tagged , , , , , , , .

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