The PM asked for peanuts from the EU and didn’t even get those. The British public should reject his measly deal and opt for Brexit.
The UK looks to be on track for a June referendum on its EU membership after President of the European Council Donald Tusk published a draft of the EU’s deal with David Cameron. The contents of the deal will come as no surprise: limits on migrant benefits, a “red card” veto power for unwanted EU legislation, a commitment to more economic competitiveness, and assurances that Britain will not be dragged into the eurozone. The devil, however, is in the detail; all of the concessions have been heavily watered down, and none of them were especially substantial in the first place. The treaty change Mr Cameron called for in his 2013 Bloomberg speech has not been delivered. He claims to be satisfied with the deal; anyone who wants a free and sovereign Britain should think otherwise.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: freedom of movement. In December 2015, ComRes claimed that three-quarters of British adults believe in the effectiveness of a points based immigration system for the UK. An ICM poll around the same time showed that a plurality of voters would support leaving the EU if freedom of movement remained unchanged. Immigration is consistently the number one issue for the British electorate. The PM however, has not attempted to negotiate a British exemption from freedom of movement. The reason is simple: he can’t get it. Freedom of movement is regarded by EU officials as so fundamental to their political project that they would rather lose Britain as a member than concede it.
Instead, Mr Cameron has pursued limits on migrant benefits. Under the terms of the proposed “emergency brake”, migrants will not be able to obtain full in-work benefits for four years after coming to Britain. The PM originally wanted a total four year ban; this has been reduced to a graduated version where the amount migrants can claim slowly increases. Putting the ban in place will not be entirely at the discretion of the UK government, as other member states will have to approve it first. Will the ban reduce net migration? Perhaps/perhaps not. One thing it definitely won’t do is give the British government back control over its borders. The UK will continue to have an immigration policy controlled by the EU that unfairly discriminates against non-EU citizens.
In the realm of sovereignty, Mr Cameron has also failed to deliver. The promise of a proper “red card” system, a British veto for any EU legislation, has not been met. Instead, Britain will be able to block legislation by obtaining the support of at least 55% of EU member states, a very high hurdle to jump. This is little different from the system we have already, where a majority of MEPs are able to reject legislation. The proposal also doesn’t apply to past legislation, meaning we won’t be able to undo any prior EU laws or regulations. In other words: nothing has changed. The British parliament won’t have sovereignty; the UK will still be beholden to the European Commission.
This is where the alleged substance ends. The promise to cut red tape is empty rhetoric, as is the proposal to exempt the UK from “ever closer union”. The EU has been attempting to reduce red tape for years and little has been achieved. As long as the UK continues to be subject to EU legislation and EU institutions, the union will grow closer. The concessions we really need—parliamentary sovereignty, control of our own borders, a reduction in our membership fee, an end to the European Arrest Warrant and the Common Fisheries Policy—are not in the deal, weren’t on the table and most likely never could have been.
The PM and the “Remain” campaign will try to pass off this deal as a substantial achievement. It is nothing of the sort, and anyone with a shred of honesty should be able to see that. The PM is insulting the British electorate if he believes that this watering down of a watered-down deal is what they need and want from the EU.
What we need is to wave goodbye to political union. The British government shouldn’t have to beg supranational institutions for the right to run its own affairs; the British people shouldn’t have to rely on unelected officials to give us the legislative changes we want. Britain should be a free, independent, sovereign nation state with laws made by a national government that is democratically accountable to its citizens. The only way to get all of this is to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” to Mr Cameron’s deal, and vote “leave” at the referendum.