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22 February 2016

UK Parliament: David Cameron statement on the European Council

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PM Cameron spoke at the House of Commons supporting the deal achieved at the latest European Council and a vote for remaining in the EU. The referendum will be held on 23 June and there won't be another chance for renegotiation if British people vote leave.

"First, British jobs and British business depend on being able to trade with Europe on a level playing field, so we wanted: new protections for our economy; to safeguard the pound; to promote our industries, including our financial services industries; to protect British taxpayers from the costs of problems in the eurozone; and to ensure that we have a full say over the rules of the single market while remaining outside the eurozone. We got all those things. We have not just permanently protected the pound and our right to keep it, but ensured that we cannot be discriminated against. Responsibility for supervising the financial stability of the UK will always remain in the hands of the Bank of England. We have ensured that British taxpayers will never be made to bail out countries in the eurozone. We have made sure that the eurozone cannot act as a bloc to undermine the integrity of the free trade single market and we have guaranteed British business will never face any discrimination for being outside the eurozone. [...]

These protections are not just set out in a legally binding agreement. All 28 member states were also clear that the treaties would be changed to incorporate the protections for the UK as an economy inside the EU but outside the eurozone. We also agreed a new mechanism to enable non-eurozone countries to raise issues of concern, and we won the battle to ensure that this could be triggered by one country alone. Of course, none of these protections would be available if we were to leave the EU.

Secondly, we wanted commitments to make Europe more competitive, creating jobs and making British families more financially secure. Again, we got them. Europe will complete the single market in key areas that will really help Britain: in services, making it easier for thousands of UK service-based companies, like IT firms, to trade in Europe; in capital, so UK start-ups can access more sources of finance for their businesses; and in energy, allowing new suppliers into our energy market, meaning lower energy bills for families across the country.

We have secured commitments to complete trade and investment agreements with the fastest growing and most dynamic economies around the world, including the USA, Japan and China, as well as our Commonwealth allies India, New Zealand and Australia. [...]

Last but by no means least, on competitiveness one of the biggest frustrations for British business is the red tape and bureaucracy, so we agreed there will now be targets to cut the total burden of EU regulation on business. This builds on the progress we have already made, with the Commission already cutting the number of new initiatives by 80%. It means that the cost of EU red tape will be going down, not up.

Of course, if we were to leave the EU but ultimately achieve a deal with full access to the single market, like Norway, we would still be subject to all of the EU’s regulation when selling into Europe—but with no say over the rules. [...]

Thirdly, we wanted to reduce the very high level of migration from within the EU by preventing the abuse of free movement and preventing our welfare system from acting as a magnet for people to come to our country. After the hard work of the Home Secretary, we have secured new powers against criminals from other countries, including powers to stop them coming here in the first place, and powers to deport them if they are already here. We agreed longer re-entry bans for fraudsters and people who collude in sham marriages, and an end to the frankly ridiculous situation where EU nationals can avoid British immigration rules when bringing their families from outside the EU.

This agreement broke new ground, with the European Council agreeing to reverse decisions from the European Court of Justice. We have also secured a breakthrough agreement for Britain to reduce the unnatural draw that our benefits system exerts across Europe. We have already made sure that EU migrants cannot claim the new unemployment benefit, universal credit, while looking for work. Those coming from the EU who have not found work within six months can now be required to leave. At this Council, we agreed that EU migrants working in Britain can be prevented from sending child benefit home at UK rates. This will apply first to new claimants, and then to existing claimants from the start of 2020.

We also established a new emergency brake so that EU migrants will have to wait four years until they have full access to our benefits. [...]

The fourth area in which we wanted to make significant changes was to protect our country from further European political integration and to increase powers for our national Parliament. [...]So as a result of this negotiation, Britain can never be part of a European superstate.

The Council also agreed that ever closer union, which has been referred to in previous judgments of the European Court of Justice, does not offer a legal basis for extending the scope of any provisions of the treaties or EU secondary legislation. People used to talk about a multi-speed Europe; now we have a clear agreement that different countries are not only travelling at different speeds but ultimately heading to different destinations. I would argue that is fundamental change in the way this organisation works.

We have also strengthened the role of this House and all national Parliaments. We have already passed a referendum Act—the European Union Referendum Act 2015—to make sure that no powers can be handed to Brussels without the explicit consent of the British people in a referendum. [...]

The reforms that we have secured will be legally binding in international law, and will be deposited as a treaty at the United Nations. [...]

Our special status means that Britain can have the best of both worlds. We will be in the parts of Europe that work for us, influencing the decisions that affect us, in the driving seat of the world’s biggest single market, and with the ability to take action to keep our people safe; but we will be out of the parts of Europe that do not work for us. We will be out of the euro, out of the eurozone bailouts, out of the passport-free, no-borders Schengen area, and permanently and legally protected from ever being part of an ever closer union.

[...]Today I am commencing the process set out under our European Union Referendum Act to propose that the British people decide our future in Europe through an in/out referendum on Thursday 23 June. [...] As the Cabinet agreed on Saturday, the Government’s position will be to recommend that Britain remain in a reformed European Union.

This is a vital decision for the future of our country, and I believe we should also be clear that it is a final decision. An idea has been put forward that if the country voted to leave, we could have a second renegotiation and perhaps another referendum. [...]This is a straight democratic decision—staying in or leaving—and no Government can ignore that. [...]

[...] If the British people vote to leave, there is only one way to bring that about, namely to trigger article 50 of the treaties and begin the process of exit, and the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away. Let me be absolutely clear about how this works. It triggers a two-year time period to negotiate the arrangements for exit. At the end of this period, if no agreement is in place, then exit is automatic unless every one of the 27 other EU member states agrees to a delay.

[...]We should also be clear about what would happen if that deal to leave was not done within two years. Our current access to the single market would cease immediately after two years were up; our current trade agreements with 53 countries around the world would lapse. This cannot be described as anything other than risk, uncertainty and a leap in the dark that could hurt working people in our country for years to come. [...]

I believe that Britain will be stronger, safer and better off by remaining in a reformed European Union[...]

We are a great country, and whatever choice we make we will still be great. But I believe the choice is between being an even greater Britain inside a reformed EU and a great leap into the unknown. The challenges facing the west today are genuinely threatening: Putin’s aggression in the east; Islamist extremism to the south. In my view, this is no time to divide the west. When faced with challenges to our way of life, our values and our freedoms, this is a time for strength in numbers.

Full speech

© UK Parliament

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