Cameron’s EU deal more confusing than convincing

Cameron’s EU deal more confusing than convincing


(19 February 2016)

Statement by Professor Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government at Durham University’s Law School and leading immigration law and policy specialist:

“Prime Minister David Cameron’s EU deal is more confusing than convincing. 

His proposed ‘red card’ for unwanted EU draft legislation is more obscure. There must be 55% ‘of the votes allocated to national Parliaments’ to temporarily halt it. This does not mean 55% of Parliaments, but of ‘the votes allocated’ to them.

This process must be completed in 12 weeks – and requires ‘reasoned opinions’. It is not enough for Parliament to object – it must agree reasons for it.

The EU Council would then consider these reasons is a ‘comprehensive discussion’. If the Council is satisfied these reasons can be accommodated, the draft legislation can become law. Member states represented on the Council do not have a veto.

Cameron’s emergency brake is especially confusing. The preamble justifies restrictions on social security systems of different EU states because they are a potential ‘pull factor’ – but crucially this need not be shown. This is just as well because the UK government confirmed recently it had no such evidence benefits are a pull factor for EU migrants.

If Britain wants to pull an emergency brake, several conditions apply. The brake must be ‘based on objective considerations independent of the nationality of the persons concerned’. This requires the UK to provide evidence it does not have about the pressure by EU citizens only. Britain can only pull the brake when the EU gives a green light.

Any brake must be ‘proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued’ for a maximum of four years from the state of employment. The brake would start from the beginning of employment with no in-work benefits at first and gradually increasing to full benefits at four years or when the brake ends – whichever comes first. This would cover a period of seven years for where someone might be in or out of work.

Finally, Cameron’s new deal will permit ‘an option to index’ child benefit to the conditions of the member state the child resides. This will apply to new EU migrants in the first instance and to existing EU migrant residents by 2020 – note by that time EU migrants might qualify for UK citizenship and so claim full child benefits.