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Basics: Cameron’s EU deal

Video by Anthony Salamone (The University of Edinburgh) setting out the details of the UK's EU renegotiation.
In advance of calling an EU referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to ‘renegotiate’ the UK’s terms of membership of the European Union. Cameron set out his goals for the renegotiation in his Chatham House speech and letter to the European Council in November 2015. These goals, and the renegotiation itself, were grouped into four themes - also called ‘the four baskets’ by the negotiators. The first theme focused on the integration of countries using the euro, and ensuring that countries like the UK are not unfairly disadvantaged for not having the euro. The second theme concentrated on improving the EU Single Market, by boosting competitiveness and reducing regulation.
The third theme concerned sovereignty and democracy, with emphasis on limiting ‘ever closer union’ and increasing the power of national parliaments in the EU. The fourth theme addressed the migration of EU citizens to the UK, with the intent of reducing the number of people coming into the country. Some of these demands proved more difficult to address than others. The renegotiation also required the support of all of the 27 other Member States of the EU. In the end, an agreement was reached at the meeting of the European Council in February 2016. The EU deal is made up of a collection of statements and declarations designed to address each of the four baskets.
On the euro, the deal reiterates in writing that the EU is an organisation with multiple currencies and it clarifies that non-euro states do not have to contribute to financial bailouts of euro states. It also allows a country outside the EU banking union, like the UK, to request further discussion of proposals for new EU laws where there are concerns. On improving the Single Market, European leaders made a commitment to increasing competiveness and making the Single Market work better. On sovereignty, the agreement provides the UK with an opt-out from ‘ever closer union’. It also gives national parliaments a ‘red card’, allowing them to object on proposals for new EU laws. If their concerns are not addressed, then a proposal will be withdrawn.
On migration, the deal creates a means for countries to restrict access to in-work benefits to EU citizens newly arriving in the country for the first four years. This so-called ‘emergency break’ can be put in place for seven years. The European Commission has made a statement saying in advance that the UK qualifies to use this break. The agreement also allows countries to adjust child benefit payments for EU citizens when their children live in other EU states. The measures in the EU renegotiation will be implemented in different ways. Some parts of the deal, like the declaration on competitiveness, do not require any particular further legal change - they are simply statements of intent.
Other parts, such as the in-work benefits break and child benefits indexing, would necessitate new EU laws (also called secondary legislation) in order to come into force. The Council of the EU and the European Parliament would need to agree the new legislation. Other parts still, such as the provisions on ‘ever closer union’ and the Eurozone, would need to be incorporated into the EU treaties at the next time they are changed. However, the EU can provisionally implement the commitments until then. The EU has worked this way before. When voters in Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, the concessions that the Irish government received from the EU were offered in same way.
The changes were then added to the EU treaties when Croatia joined the EU in 2013. The whole renegotiation will not come into force unless the UK votes to remain a member of the EU. If the UK votes to leave the EU, it will have to negotiate a new relationship with it.
What is in David Cameron’s EU renegotiation? Anthony Salamone sets out the main points of the deal.
(Video/Design by Tim Askew. Voice/Script by Anthony Salamone.)
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