One thing is clear, that however the UK votes in the referendum, our relationship with Europe is going to change. Following David Cameron's negotiations with Europe's leaders, today Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has published the terms of the deal, called a 'New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union', which if approved later this month, could form the basis of the UK's renewed membership of the EU.
David Cameron's new deal effectively grants the UK a form of associate membership of the European Union. Our membership would be totally different from those of countries like Germany, France and Italy. The deal safeguards our special status with exemptions and protections from large areas of EU law, and grants further concessions. It helps to give us what we want, which is full access to the single market, but the right to control our currency, economy and protect our borders.
Specifically, the European Council recognises that we are already exempt from ever joining the euro, we do no participate in the Schengen open borders scheme, and that we have the right to opt out (as we have done) of measures relating to security, crime, justice and policing. In addition to this, the new deal exempts the UK from 'ever closer union' with the European Union and states that 'in light of the United Kingdom's special situation under the Treaties, it is not committed to further political integration.' National parliaments across the EU are also to be given new powers to stop EU legislation they disagree with.
There has been considerable debate over the power to stop in-work benefits to migrants to the UK from the EU, who have never paid into our welfare system. The European Council makes clear that, 'the right of economically non active persons to reside in the host Member State depends under EU law on such persons having sufficient resources for themselves and their family members not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host Members State and have comprehensive sickness insurance.'
The new deal goes further and recognises that because of the exceptional pressure that has been put on the UK from migrant workers from the EU, we will be able to apply an emergency brake on in-work benefits they would otherwise receive 'for a total period of up to four years from the commencement of employment.' An additional measure also proposes that people in work will no longer be able to claim child benefit at the UK rate, to send back to their children living in another country.
One of the key areas for our re-negotiation of our membership of the European Union was also to protect our economy and the City of London from interference from the eurozone. The new deal delivers this by stating that there can be no 'discrimination' within the EU based on the official currency of the member state, that the power of institutions like the European Central Bank to rule on issues to do with banking and credit, applies only to the eurozone. It is made clear as well that the supervision of financial institutions and markets for countries not in the Eurozone, 'is a matter for their own authorities'.
Finally, the European Council also recognises the need for greater competition and deregulation. It commits to work to lower 'administrative burdens and compliance costs on economic operators, especially small and medium entreprises', and to repeal, 'unnecessary legislation.'
So in short, its a new deal for Britain with safeguards for the City of London, which excludes us from political union, gives new powers to stop welfare benefits to EU migrants, commits the EU to more competition and deregulation, and proposes new powers for national parliaments to block EU laws.
Damian Collins is the Conservative MP for Folkestone & Hythe