The details of the Prime Minister’s negotiations with the European Union have started to emerge. The draft renegotiation agreement was published last Tuesday and it covered four main areas; Sovereignty, Competitiveness and Job Creation, Single Currency and Immigration.
It states that our Parliament can effect a ‘red card’ on unwanted EU laws if there are enough other Member States in agreement, and a new mechanism ensuring the EU’s commitment to subsidiarity, i.e. that decisions should be taken at national level wherever possible.
The draft text also contains proposals for specific targets to reduce burdens on business and cut the level of red tape year on year.
There are principles to ensure that by remaining outside the Euro there will be no discrimination or disadvantage on British businesses and also no option for Britain ever again to be forced to bail out Eurozone countries.
On immigration, the draft includes strong measures to prevent the abuse of the free movement. Also there are proposals to prevent people coming from Europe from sending child benefit overseas and an ‘emergency brake’ meaning that people coming from the EU will have to wait four years before they have full access to our benefits system.
These are just the headlines, and once the terms are agreed and finalised then it will allow a full debate to take place across the country over whether the changes are enough for people to support our continued membership of the EU. It will enable both sides of the argument to lay out their case, with the pros and cons from both sides.
With regard to my own position, I have consistently said that until I know the full and final terms of any new arrangements I would not commit myself. I want to see the trading advantages of being a member remain, but if these are outweighed by burdens and bureaucracy then those advantages could be neutralised.
At first glance these draft terms do have some vital changes in them, so whist I am looking for changes that satisfy me that we should remain in the EU, as yet in these draft proposals I remain to be completely convinced they are sufficient. Along with everyone else, I will wait for the final details, and then armed with those we can all reach our conclusions in readiness for the referendum, whatever date it may come.