Britain would be able to request an “emergency brake” on migrant benefits under a deal aimed at keeping Britain in the European Union which was published today by European Council president Donald Tusk.
David Cameron insisted the deal delivered the “substantial change” to Britain’s membership of the EU he had demanded in his party’s manifesto.
However the proposals, which addressed all four areas where Cameron has demanded reform, did little to ease doubts among his more Eurosceptic colleagues. Even some of the prime minister’s closest allies wondered out loud if the package – which must still be agreed by other EU states – would be enough.
The two sides have been locked in talks trying to find a way for Cameron to win what he calls the “best deal possible” for Britain while keeping other EU states onboard before a referendum which could take place as early as in June.
Tusk’s text said Britain could immediately suspend welfare payments to EU migrants if Britons voted to stay in the bloc. However it is not clear how long the brake will last or how easy it will be to apply. Additionally the UK could, if other countries agreed, have new powers to block legislation. Britain could also opt out of further political integration in the 28-member bloc.
But with Eurosceptics describing the talks as “trivial” and some of Cameron’s allies saying the proposals would probably need more work, a summit of EU leaders on February 18-19 was gearing up to be a difficult meeting.