×

A 'steaming pile of manure': UK press slams EU deal

The U.K.'s media has never been one to pull its punches and true to form on Wednesday, the front pages were dominated by headlines lambasting a draft deal detailing proposed changes to the U.K.'s membership terms of the European Union (EU).

The draft proposals were arrived at after several days of talks between U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council. While Cameron said there had been "significant movement" in the negotiations, the press had other ideas, calling the proposals a "joke," "mess" and a "steaming pile of manure."

Most of the coverage focused on the fact that the proposals – which cover U.K. demands for limits on EU migration and reforms to protect non-euro countries like the U.K. and boost competitiveness – did not contain enough detail or go as far as expected.


Holly Ellyatt | CNBC

The most contentious issue – and a particular source of ridicule for the U.K. press – was the draft proposal to curb EU migration to the U.K. and the benefits migrants can claim once in the U.K.

Under the draft plan, the U.K. can apply an "emergency brake" that the UK can apply to restrict in-work benefits for EU nationals (for an unspecified temporary period) that have been in the U.K. for less than a certain (as yet undecided) number of years -- with the agreement of the EU Commission and EU Council, seemingly giving those EU bodies the right to reject benefits curbs.

A 'mess', 'joke' and 'pile of manure'?

For the press, the proposals did not go far enough but Cameron rejected criticism that he watered down the proposals, saying, "This is not a done deal yet, there is a lot more work to be done over these next couple of weeks," Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Other key points in what the European Commission called a "new settlement" for the U.K. included recognizing the U.K.'s wish to not integrate further into Europe (by adopting the euro, for example), a pledge to increase competitiveness and a so-called "emergency brake" whereby any draft EU legislation that is opposed by a majority of parliaments in the EU is referred back to the EU Council for discussion.

Several newspapers were scathing about the draft deal and the supposed "brakes" – not the reaction Cameron was hoping for.

The Sun newspaper, a popular and influential tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, ran the headline "Who do EU think you are kidding, Mr Cameron," playing on the theme tune to popular U.K. TV program, "Dad's Army," and saying that Cameron had "caved in" over benefits, that the "brake" on laws was "bogus" and that the U.K. would have "no control of our borders."

Adding insult to injury, the newspaper said Cameron's "negotiation" with Brussels – which has been ongoing but stepped up a gear earlier this week – had "produced a steaming pile of manure."

"It is a dismal failure worse than we ever imagined. It will not improve one aspect of British life," an editorial in the newspaper on Wednesday said. The disapproving tone was not missed by Twitter users either.


'The Great Delusion!'

The Daily Mail, known for its euro-skeptic readership, played to the gallery with its front page dominated by the headline "The Great Delusion!" as it lambasted the prime minister for hailing EU "reforms" that analysts had said would "do nothing to curb migration and will trigger years of benefit chaos." Fellow euro-skeptic rag, the Daily Express, also kicked the boot in saying "Cameron's EU deal is a joke."

Broadsheet newspapers – seen as less populist brands – such as The Times, also owned by Murdoch, were more restrained, however. "Brussels will have right to reject benefit curbs," The Times noted, while The Independent ran the headline "Deal or no deal?" questioning whether the draft agreement on the U.K.'s place in the EU really delivers what Cameron had promised.

The draft deal, published on Tuesday, has been circulated to all 28 EU nations ahead of a key summit in mid-February. If agreed to, Cameron could announce that a referendum on whether to stay in a reformed EU could take place in June.

The Daily Mirror newspaper called that move "Cam's great EU gamble" noting that Britain's future in Europe could be decided by June and the Financial Times noted on its front page that Cameron now faced a "battle to sell EU deal to skeptical Tory (Conservative) MPs."

While seen as a wet fish by the U.K's press and euro skeptic politicians., several powerful European nations like France are affronted at the demands being made by the U.K.

Cameron has tried to drum up support for the U.K.'s demands in Europe, saying they could help other nations, but there has so far been a mixed response – particularly from nations like Poland that have seen thousands of its citizens migrate to the U.K. for work. Others are unhappy that allowances or "special rules" could be made for the U.K., a country that has always had something of "one foot in, one foot out" attitude to the union with its continental neighbors.

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.