Here are the key points from the discussion and messages to business ahead of the referendum.
- Stronger, safer, better off. These are the three key themes around which Britain’s membership of the EU can be secured. Britain Stronger in Europe plans to convince people not just how risky it would be to leave, but how important it is to stay.
- This matters. This could be the biggest constitutional reform since the UK joined the EEC in 1973. The outcome of this referendum will affect the public up and down the country, on issues ranging from food prices to data roaming charges.
- The renegotiation is important. With a third of voters undecided, many will vote based on the renegotiation. The Prime Minister has gone further than people originally expected, including his ‘’Emergency Brake’’ on in-work benefits. Britain Stronger in Europe will look to champion this improved deal.
- It’s currently too close to call. Polling currently shows one third of people opting to remain in the EU, a third opting to leave, and a final third undecided.
- Business must be heard. No matter what position UK businesses adopt towards the EU – in, out, or somewhere in between – their voices need to be heard. Both sides need champions outside of conventional politics.
- Democracy. Eurosceptic campaigns advocate leaving the EU to reclaim sovereignty from unelected figures on the continent. However, in order to prosper in the 21s century, states need to collaborate internationally. Norway and Switzerland, often held up as ideal sovereign nations by the Eurosceptic groups, have to pay contributions to the EU without a say in its direction, which is damaging not enhancing democracy.
- Immigration. Britain Stronger in Europe recognise that this is the number one issue on doorsteps. People generally appreciate hardworking migrants and their economic contribution; the challenge is building a system that is not vulnerable to abuse. This will be a key issue in the period up to the referendum
- The date. With the draft renegotiation published this morning it will be scrutinized from all angles for the next three weeks. If it is ratified at the European Council summit on February 18, a June referendum looks likely. If not, an Autumn referendum is the next possibility. The date won’t, however, be a significant factor in the outcome of the referendum.
- Beware of uncertainty. If the country does opt to withdraw, nobody can predict what will happen. The impact on international markets and geopolitical relations is unclear. Unless the country actively engages with the referendum, it risks sleepwalking out of the EU.
- The world is watching. The UK’s international partners both within the EU and without have made it no secret that they want to avoid Brexit. The world is slowly gravitating towards regional blocs in search of solutions to international problems; Brexit can only isolate the UK.
Both sides are now poised to launch their campaigns. The clock is ticking down to the EU Council meeting in just 16 days’ time. Here are the key dates:
Feb 2 Donald Tusk has circulated the outline renegotiation to all 28 EU capitals.
Feb 3 David Cameron will present the draft deal to the House of Commons.
Feb 18-19 The European Council convenes in Brussels, with all member states having to agree to the deal for it to be successful.
Feb 22 The Cabinet will meet to discuss support or opposition to the deal. From this day, senior Ministers will be free to campaign as they please. The Prime Minister is expected to officially endorse the deal.
March Secondary legislation will be implemented to allow for the referendum. The Electoral Commission will later designate who are the official Leave and Remain campaigns.
May 5 Elections in Scotland, Wales and London, in which the referendum is likely to feature heavily.
June 23 Expected date of the referendum.
What’s in Today’s deal?
The key elements of the deal announced today by the Prime Minister are as follows:
Migration. The ‘Emergency Brake’ means that in-work benefits of EU migrants will be halted for four years, pending agreement from other national Governments. Benefits will be gradually restored over time. EU migrants will be able to send child benefit back home, but would get a lower payment if the cost of living in the country of origin is lower.
Sovereignty. The renegotiation contains a clear legal statement that the UK is not committed to further political integration and that the phrase “ever closer union” does not apply to Britain. There are also new powers for national Parliaments to block EU legislation through a ‘Red Card’ system.
Competitiveness. The EU has committed to completing the internal market and lifting the burden of regulation. There are also provisions to preserve the City of London’s status as a financial hub.
Security. The Prime Minister has made unexpected gains, making it easier to stop suspected criminals from entering countries, even if they don’t pose an immediate threat. Loopholes to entry into the EU such as sham marriages will also be closed.