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European Leaders Reach Deal To Help Keep Britain In European Union


European leaders have reached a deal to help keep Britain in the 28-member European Union. The agreement follows a series of meetings between British Prime Minister David Cameron and other European leaders. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has been monitoring the summit from Berlin and joins us now. And Soraya, first, tell us about this deal.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, it's interesting because I think it's more what's being said about the deal than what's actually in it, which seems to have come out. And basically we have the British Prime Minister David Cameron saying that his country now has a special status in the EU and is protected from being part of a European super state or having his powers compromised. Now, on the other hand, you have the EU president, Donald Tusk, saying that the deal keeps the EU intact without compromising what the bloc stands for.

Now, some of the specifics are that Britain will be allowed to apply a seven-year emergency break on welfare benefits paid to immigrants who come from other EU states. This has been a real sticking point for Britain because, it says, a lot of the poorer EU states that people from those countries end up coming to Britain just to collect the generous welfare benefits there. So they'll be able to put in some discriminatory or what are seen as discriminatory practices by some of its critics.

They're also going to be able to be freed from - they being Britain - will be able to be freed from some of the financial regulations and restrictions for both its - the country as a whole and the city of London even though it's not in the eurozone. And this something, again, that raises some concerns with - among some of the Europeans who agreed to this tonight.

SIEGEL: By the way, does that seven-year condition mean that a worker wouldn't be eligible for benefits until seven years or could only do so for seven years?

NELSON: It's - they can only apply the restrictions for seven years.

SIEGEL: I see.

NELSON: For workers, it could be - it's a variety of different times depending on what it is. I mean, there's, like, a four-year restriction, apparently, on new immigrants who are coming. There is some discussion of retroactively applying some things as well. But there is, basically, a seven-year emergency break total that they can apply these different standards to the EU migrants.

SIEGEL: Cameron has said that if he didn't go home with a deal this weekend, then his countrymen would vote to leave the European Union in a referendum that's going to be out later this year. Does this deal do the trick for him?

NELSON: Well, not necessarily because there are still a lot of euro skeptics in Britain who don't see any benefit to Britain being affiliated with the European Union, and so this deal is very much unlikely to sway them. And even Cameron is calling it a milestone rather than the endpoint, so clearly he didn't get everything he wanted either. He will have a lot of campaigning to do before the referendum which is expected in June, but the first step of that will be to brief his cabinet tomorrow morning and to get them on board.

SIEGEL: And for the EU, what were the sticking points in dealing with Britain?

NELSON: There was a lot of concern that European Union states had about Britain having - being able to apply different standards to migrants who are coming in and also some of the banking regulations - to be free of the financial regulation. This is something that they were concerned would end up making it difficult to create a single currency for the European Union, which is the ultimate goal.

SIEGEL: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Berlin, thank you.

NELSON: You're welcome, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.