UK Wants Out from EU

London Asks for Vito Power over Euro, Curbs on Free Movement

A new settlement aimed at keeping the UK in the 28-member European Union are ramping up, as leaders prepare to meet next week to debate in European Council.

The proposal came in response to Cameron’s request for a series of reforms to the UK’s existing membership terms with the European Union, with the premier calling for a “legally binding and irreversible” agreement that would provide his country with the flexibility it seeks in various areas.

Regarding economic governance, the document would prohibit currency-related “discrimination between natural or legal persons,” along with ensuring any legal agreements “directly linked to the functioning of the euro area” will not pose a hindrance to intra-EU trade.

The document also includes a specific mention of the EU’s foreign trade agenda, stating that the 28-nation bloc “will pursue an active and ambitious policy of trade” as part of a larger competitiveness policy.

The section on sovereignty includes language aimed at answering concerns over increasing political integration, among other things. Cameron had asked, in his November letter to Tusk outlining requested reforms, that he wanted to end his country’s “obligation to work toward an ‘ever closer union’ as set out in the Treaty.”

The final section, on social benefits and free movement, is likely to be among the most controversial, analysts say. Among other provisions, it includes a proposed change to the EU’s regulation on free movement of workers that would allow for “an alert and safeguard mechanism” should there be a massive influx into one country of workers from other EU member states.

This is meant to “take account of a pull factor arising from a Member State’s in-work benefits regime,” with the country involved needing to notify both the Commission and the Council that an “exceptional situation” that meets certain criteria exists, including a strained social benefit system.

The Council would then need to approve authorisation for that country to restrict benefits for new workers from other EU member states for up to four years.

EU leaders are set to meet from 18-19 February, with Cameron and Tusk both aiming to finalise the settlement deal at that stage. The timing of reaching an agreement is key, given that a UK referendum on whether to stay in the European Union is currently planned for this June. Delaying a settlement until the next European Council meeting – set for late March – would potentially complicate this timing.