UK in a Changing Europe director and senior fellows respond to Britain’s renegotiation demands released by Donald Tusk, the EU council president today:
Jonathan Portes said: “If – and it is a big if – this text survives more or less unchanged it is likely to have some, but not much, impact on benefit receipts by EU migrants, but rather little on immigration.
“Overall, the proposals are a mixed bag, which will lead to some significant changes to benefit eligibility for some EU workers but do not, as they currently stand, amount to a permanent four-year waiting period for in-work benefits. Instead there is a mechanism (in principle, temporary) which, while it is in force, will mean that migrants’ access to in-work benefits is extended progressively over four years. This will save a relatively modest amount of money and, it could be argued, reflects the reality of the UK labour market and benefit system.
“It is, however, highly unlikely to result in any significant reduction in immigration.
“The principle of free movement of workers, for better or worse, remains largely untouched. ”
Professor Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe said: “As ever, the devil will be in the detail. This is a fairly encouraging start. But putting specific binding guarantees in place – particularly with no prospect of treaty change – will not be easy. And persuading 27 other governments to simply agree to a deal that Britain wants will be even harder.”
The UK in a Changing Europe’s research into the attitudes of British MPs showed how important the details of the package are for Mr Cameron’s own party. The survey organised by Professors Menon, Bale and Cowley, and drawing on Ipsos Mori’s Reputation Centre, found:
- 63% of Conservative MPs said they were awaiting details of the renegotiations before deciding how to vote.
- Of these, 49% said that controlling access to the welfare state and benefits was one of the most important issues in determining how they will vote.
The survey also showed that 64% of Conservative MPs thought Britain would vote to remain a member of the EU.
Professor Catherine Barnard said: “The so-called red card procedure – intended to put a brake on EU proposal – is pink rather than red. The draft statement provides that ‘Where reasoned opinions on non-compliance of a draft EU legislative act with the principle of subsidiarity, sent within 12 weeks from the transmission of a draft, represent more than 55% of the vote allocated to the national parliaments, the Council Presidency will include the item on the agenda of the Council for a comprehensive discussion. Following such discussion the representatives of the member states will ‘discontinue the consideration’ of the draft, ie it is not abandoned entirely, unless the draft is amended to accommodate the concerns. The effect of the existing yellow card procedure already delivers much of this already.”
Dr Angus Armstrong said: “The UK has achieved most of the requests in the PM’s letter to Mr Tusk. But these were in fact very modest. Some existing principles were clarified, such as location policy i.e. where private institutions can and cannot be located, no financial exposure to measures to resolve eurozone crises and integrity of the single market. But this does not resolve the issue. For example, differences in treatment (location policy) must be based on ‘objective reasons’.
“There is a suggestion that prudential powers set by the European Central Bank may need to be conceived in a more uniform manner i.e. to consider the circumstances of member states outside of the banking union. This is a potential step back from the maximal harmonisation of capital regulations but the text is far from constituting anything which is yet legally binding.
“There appears to be ‘observer status’ to the Euro Group – however this is not a legislative or regulatory body and falls inevitably short of “any decisions that affect all member states must be discussed and decided by them by all Member States” in the Prime Minister’s letter.”
The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.