Yesterday the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, revealed the highly-anticipated draft of a possible reform of Britain’s membership of the EU – to the scorn of the British press and Eurosceptics, who branded it a “farce”.

The deal, drafted after weeks of meetings between Prime Minister David Cameron and top EU officials, aimed to renegotiate in four key areas; safeguards for Sterling, more power to reject legislation made in Brussels and enhanced economic competitiveness and, most controversially, Cameron’s desire to limit benefit payments to European migrants.

So what did the draft deal contain?

The EU needed to offer a deal that was safe from legal challenges and could be applied to all 28 member states, without the complex and time-consuming amendment of treaties. If the leaders of all 28 states agree on this proposal, a referendum could be held on the subject in the UK as early as June.

Euro vs. Sterling

One of Cameron’s four aims was the continued safeguarding of the Sterling, and assurance that not being part of the Euro will not adversely affect Britain with the introduction of EU-written economic legislation. The EU confirmed that British citizens ors companies would not be discriminated against for not being in the Euro Zone.

Devolution of power from Brussels

Eurosceptics fear that Central European policymakers have too much control over member states national legislation, and wish to see the devolution of power. To counter this, the reform package states:

“It is recognised that the United Kingdom, in the light of the specific situation it has under the Treaties, is not committed to further integration into the European Union.”


David Cameron has consistently called for less ‘red tape’ and an increase in competition. Effectively, the Tusk reform package does little but nod its approval to this idea.

Welfare payments for migrants

Cameron’s desire is to exclude European migrants from tax credits, child allowances and other non-contributory social benefits for at least four years. However, this controversial move arguably goes against free movement of people, one of the key pillars of European membership.

On this topic, the EU proposed an “emergency brake”, effectively allowing countries to limit these rights in the face of national security or economic difficulties. Legislation drawn up to this effect would need the consent other member states with a significant influx of EU migrants.


Many have dubbed the deal a “joke”, saying that Tusk has made very few real concessions in Camerons’s four main areas and that the deal is largely rhetoric designed to give the impression of action. Britain’s right wing press took the opportunity to criticise, with The Sun calling it a “stinking pile of manure”. Even the largely centrist Financial Times admitted that Cameron could have a tough time selling it to his party.

Miranda Wadham on 03/02/2016


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