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BRIT Review

Draft ‘deal’ to meet UK reforms published by European Council

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


European Council President Donald Tusk has published the draft deal to meet the Prime Minister’s European Union reform demands. It is believed that the very act of publishing the draft means it will not in the main part be disputed.

You can read the full document here (external site)

What are the sticking points for UK politicians?

The 'Emergency Brake.'

The original request was for a four-year ban on migrants claiming tax credits and other in-work benefits to reduce overall immigration. This proved difficult as countries like Poland said it was discriminatory. The change is an emergency brake on benefits if you could prove that your public services were under strain. This would be available to all countries but the UK would need the approval of other EU states before it happened.

The ‘Red Card.’

The "red card" system is intended to make it easier for states to get together and to block unwanted EU laws. There is currently a yellow card, which can be used if it is deemed that the European Council has over stepped its remit. The Council however can merely decide to maintain, amend or withdraw whatever is put in front of it. The red card would require 55% of parliaments in the EU to get together to be able to block measures. Downing Street commented that this would strengthen this power and mean the will of national parliamentarians could not just be ignored.


European Council President Donald Tusk wrote: "Keeping the unity of the European Union is the biggest challenge for all of us and so it is the key objective of my mandate. It is in this spirit that I put forward a proposal for a new settlement of the United Kingdom within the EU. To my mind it goes really far in addressing all the concerns raised by Prime Minister Cameron. The line I did not cross, however, were the principles on which the European project is founded. 

Giving his early reactions, David Cameron said the draft delivers "substantial change" in the UK's relationship with the EU but that there were "important things" to be worked on over the coming days. Mr Cameron added that "real progress" had been made in his four main negotiating objectives (see below). 

Boris Johnson, told LBC radio it would be better “if we had a brake of our own that we were able to use." He also said that more reform needed to be done.

Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott dismissed the "red card" proposal, saying: "These gimmicks have been ignored by the EU before and will be ignored again as they will not be in the EU treaty."

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage said: "The idea we are being sold that a joint 'red card' is some sort of victory is frankly ludicrous."

Britain Stronger in Europe said that the "red card" proposal and the plans to curb benefits "or equivalent concessions" would "represent a significant victory for the prime minister and underline that Britain is stronger in Europe".

What happens next?

Mr. Cameron will aim to convince (unless this has already happened behind the scenes) the rest of the member states of the EU to sign up to his demands. This will happen at a summit to be held on February 18 -19

If the UK is able to get agreement at the summit in a few weeks time it is expected that the referendum on whether the UK should stay in the European Union will rake place in late June, likely the 23rd. This will not please those in Scotland and Wales due to the close timing with their national elections.

The PM will also have to work with conservative politicians and MPs to in effect win over his own side as there are many Eurosceptics and many who may feel this deal is not enough.

A recap on the four main aims of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation

Integration/Sovereignty: Allowing Britain to opt out from the EU's founding ambition to forge an "ever closer union" of the peoples of Europe so it will not be drawn into further political integration. Giving greater powers to national parliaments to block or scrap EU legislation.

Competitiveness: To extend the single market and cut down on excessive regulation - commonly known by critics as "Brussels bureaucracy". 

Benefits: Restricting access to in-work and out-of-work benefits to EU migrants. Specifically, ministers want to stop those coming to the UK from claiming certain benefits and housing until they have been resident for four years. But the European Commission, which runs the EU, has said such a move would be "highly problematic" and the focus has now turned to the UK having an "emergency brake" which could stop in-work benefits to EU migrants for four years.

Eurozone v the rest: Securing an explicit recognition that the euro is not the only currency of the European Union, to ensure countries outside the eurozone are not disadvantaged. The UK also wants safeguards that it will not have to contribute to eurozone bailouts.

(courtesy of the BBC)


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