David Cameron this week announced he had reached a deal with Donald Tusk and the European Union in his renegotiation of Britain’s terms of membership with the EU. Whilst he has praised the document, which has attracted the support of Theresa May, it has drawn scorn from Eurosceptics who consider it too little, too late and are demanding a referendum sooner rather than later.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mr Cameron said that he wished to ensure that the House of Commons was sovereign, following criticism that his negotiations had failed to reign in what is regarded by some as a European super-state. The result of Cameron’s negotiations include the possibility of an emergency brake on migrant benefits if it can be proven that public services are under too much pressure, an increase in economic competitiveness, and a halt to the idea of an ‘ever closer union’.
Whilst the National Institute for Economic and Social Research found that there was likely to be no difference in immigration levels if a break was applied, another think tank – the Institute for Public Policy Research – found that there was political capital to be gained from the proposals which would, in the eyes of the public, they claimed, return some fairness to the benefits system.
Reaction to the announcement has been mixed, even from within the Conservative Party. Whilst European leaders have been relatively mute about the document, feelings have been significantly more salient amongst Tory MPs and Peers. Whilst the Home Secretary, who many believed was considering campaigning for Brexit, in the end came out in support of the deal, former Defence Secretary Liam Fox claimed at least four or five Cabinet members could campaign for Britain’s departure.
Away from the Conservative Party, Nigel Farage labelled the deal as “pathetic” and urged voters to reject the document – and the EU – when the referendum comes this summer. Jeremy Corbyn expressed concern over a perceived attack on worker’s rights in what he described as a “smoke and mirror deal”.
David Cameron’s pitch now begins. Polls remains split quite evenly, although some do suggest a slight edge for the ‘In’ side. Can Cameron capitalise on this renegotiation, or will it turn out to be worth nothing more than the paper it’s written on? A date being bounced around is June 23rd, and if true that gives both sides less than 140 days to get their message to the electorate. The race starts now…