WHAT ARE DAVID CAMERON’S FOUR “REFORM DEMANDS” AND DO THEY MATTER?

Much of this courtesy of  of the Daily Telegraph, November 2015

David Cameron has set out four broad objectives for his renegotiation of Britain’s European Union membership. What are they, how might he achieve them, and what would it mean if he did?

It’s helpful, now that Dave looks likely to call the EU Referendum maybe in June to remind ourselves exactly what he’s been fighting for and what effect this might have on us in the UK.

Objective one: protect the single market for Britain and others outside the Eurozone.

Ministers’ biggest fear in the EU is that the 19 countries that use the euro will use their majority in the 28-member EU to change the rules to the detriment of non-euro nations such as Britain, especially on the financial regulations that are vital to the City of London.

Mr Cameron wants new “binding principles” to ensure this will not happen. They could include an “emergency brake” allowing the UK to pause moves towards new regulations.

His problem is that to be binding, those new rules must be written into the EU’s fundamental treaties, a process that will not be completed before Britain votes on membership by the end of next year. SO THERE YOU HAVE IT. Cameron cannot promise any reforms, unless he’s lying.

Objective two: write competitiveness into the DNA of the whole European Union.

This is the easiest target to hit, not least because it is relatively nebulous. It is also an area where Britain has considerable support from reform-minded northern European nations, especially the Netherlands. The European Commission and its powerful vice-president, Frans Timmermans, is also committed to reducing red tape on European businesses.

So Mr Cameron will likely be able to declare victory by listing the regulations that are being abolished, though he is likely to stay away from rules around employee rights that some critics say hold back companies.

Objective three: exempt Britain from an “ever closer union” – and bolster national parliaments.

Ministers insist those three words, from the EU’s founding Treaty of Rome, are not just symbolic and have been used to justify EU policies and laws that have reduced the scope for MPs at Westminster to set the rules for Britain. As such, they seek a formal legal exemption from “ever closer union” for Britain.

An agreement here is quite likely, partly because some other EU leaders do regard this as a question of symbolism not substance. But ministers privately admit that meeting the demand of some Tory MPs to give Parliament at Westminster a veto over all EU rules is effectively impossible.

Objective four: “tackle abuses of the right to free movement, and enable us to control migration from the European Union, in line with my manifesto.”

The issue that matters most to British voters, and the one where it is hardest to meet their expectations. Despite hints from ministers such as Theresa May, Mr Cameron is not seeking the right to limit the number of EU nationals who enter Britain. Instead, he wants agreement to limit such nationals’ right to claim British benefits, requiring them to work for four years before being eligible for child benefit, tax credits or council housing. Ministers say benefits are a “pull factor” for EU migrants.

Agreement there may possible, not least since Germany may accept that such changes are already permissible under existing rules. But some economists suggest tougher rules may not significantly reduce EU immigration, since most EU migrants in the UK work and do not claim welfare.

Overview

David Cameron has promised to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the EU. The process is secretive, but here’s what we know about what Cameron will try and secure:

  1. Prevent Eurozone states from “ganging up” on Britain in access to the single market as they seek to integrate further
  2. Excusing Britain from the principle of ever closer union
  3. Giving more power to national parliaments to ‘red card’ EU plans
  4. Denying EU migrants access to in-work benefits for four years
  5. Ending child benefit payments to migrants’ children overseas
  6. No free movement for new EU states until their economies develop
  7. Cut red tape, complete the single market in services and sign major trade deals with the US and Asia
  8. Full on’ treaty change is essential
  9. The process is followed by an in-out referendum by the end of 2017

In a couple of weeks we will see how successful he has been. Sadly, these “terms” do not address the fundamental issues. There is no talk of controlling our borders properly. There is no discussion concerning the ever increasing EU “membership” cost, currently some £14 billion per year, let alone the total cost including EU regulations estimated last week by the Institute of Economic Affairs of £9,265 per household, or a colossal 13 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. And for what? This is utter madness!