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David Cameron’s negotiations have changed the EU for the better

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Introduction

The 2015 general election saw the Conservatives elected on the promise of an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union by the end of 2017. Since then David Cameron has undertaken negotiations seeking changes to improve the EU and its relationship with the UK. Reforms were agreed at a European Council summit on 19 February 2016.

A reformed EU

Some campaigning to remain in the EU have supported EU membership regardless of negotiations, but for some the negotiations’ outcomes show that the UK can be part of a changing and better Europe. Since the negotiations concluded, most of those campaigning to remain have argued that the agreements on sovereignty, immigration, competitiveness, and economic governance show that the UK has strong influence in the EU and that the UK will be better off in a reformed EU.

National sovereignty has been central to the EU debate. The Remain camp argues the agreement has ensured that the UK is no longer committed to further political integration, meaning we will not have to hand over further powers to the EU. This means the UK’s sovereignty is protected from further EU integration. It is also argued that an agreement giving a group representing 55% of the EU’s national parliaments the power to block EU legislation returns significant power back to the member states.

The deal outlines a new system which allows countries whose welfare systems are suffering from excessive immigration to curb the amount of benefits given to EU migrants for up to seven years. It also includes a provision which changes the way child benefits are calculated for EU migrants with children living overseas. Remain campaigners argue that this is a significant change that will help to address the currently high level of immigration to the UK and shows the EU is willing to engage in change and listen to the UK.

The European Council has also confirmed its commitment to increasing competitiveness by further integrating the EU digital market, removing remaining barriers to trade to services, and reducing the burden of EU regulation on businesses. The Remain campaign argues that the EU is willing to continue working towards a barrier free single market and, if we leave the EU, the UK will not be able to benefit from reforms and trade relations vital for growth in the UK services sector.

The deal also includes a guarantee on economic governance to ensure that the UK will not be discriminated against for not adopting the euro currency. Non-eurozone countries will now have the power to raise concerns about any new policies at meetings of the eurozone countries if they believe the changes will negatively affect their country. The UK will also not have to adopt eurozone decisions or provide funds to support the euro currency. Remain campaigners argue that this provides protection from changes that may be pushed through by the eurozone group, an option that was not possible before the negotiations.

Justin Protts