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22 February 2016
Broadly the agreement signed between Brussels and PM David Cameron, on behalf of the UK consists of key measures that avoid the need for a new EU Treaty.
A) The Eurozone; the EU has agreed there should be more than one currency operating in the Eurozone, but the responsibility for securing the UK’s financial stability will remain in the UK and at the Bank of England. UK taxpayers will not be required to commit to the bail-outs of Eurozone countries, nor can UK businesses be discriminated against on the basis of the UK being outside the Eurozone. The City of London cannot veto Eurozone decisions but gets some protection against being overruled by the ECB.
B) Immigration; New powers allow the UK to stop criminals entering the UK and to deport them if they commit a crime.
Benefits; an EU immigrant who does not find work within six months can be deported. There will be an “emergency brake” allowing the UK government to stop paying in-work benefits to migrants for seven years.
The “emergency brake” on migrants “in-work” benefits operates when there are “exceptional” levels of migration.
EU host nations can cut migrant workers’ child benefit payments for children living overseas to the rate paid in their home countries.
There are measures to deny free-movement rights to non-EU nationals who marry an EU national as well as new action to tackle “sham marriages” aimed at obtaining residence rights. This new measure denies freedom of movement for non-EU spouses, subject to the European parliament approval.
C) Sovereignty – EU treaties will be amended to specifically exclude the UK from “ever closer union”. This deal recognises different options for individual countries. The UK will not be forced into political integration.
Informed sources have suggested, the UK government has decided the referendum will take place on Thursday 23rd June 2016. This could be announced today during the PM’s address to the House of Commons at 3:30pm
The “Brexit” issue is “live” with the focus now on the support for the deal both from Conservative backbenchers and within Cabinet. Whilst the PM promised a “free vote” where Cabinet ministers will be able to decide their own position, in practice the Conservatives need to carry the parliamentary party for the “in campaign” to get off the ground.
On its face, the deal rather than “reforming Europe” gives the UK significant safeguards and controls whilst preserving the EU’s federalist momentum. The big drop in sterling this morning suggests continued pressure / currency risk in the run-up to what will be a very close referendum vote.
But at least a quick vote will ensure the issue is tackled soon!