UK Prime Minister David Cameron has outlined the 'reasonable' reforms he hopes to achieve, as the UK seeks to renegotiate its relationship with Europe ahead of a referendum before 2017 on continuing EU membership.
The speech, sent to European Council President Donald Tusk, established four key targets for reform. Cameron said he had "every confidence" that he will be able to secure the deal he wants, saying, "Britain's best future lies in a reformed Europe."
Cameron's first demand drew attention to the need to, "protect the single market for Britain" while ensuring that Eurozone countries do not discriminate against those outside the monetary bloc. He said that "non-Euro members like Britain need certain safeguards to protect the single market and ensure we face neither discrimination nor additional costs from Eurozone integration."
Cameron described this as being of "cardinal importance", calling for clear and binding principles to protect the interests of the UK. He said that were the EU to evolve into a "single currency club… it would no longer be a club for us."
Tackling the EU's ongoing "competitive crisis" was another key area identified by Cameron. He said that the UK’s economic security is dependent on the European Union, which accounts for "almost half our trade," with the EU needing "to become more competitive to cope with the rise of economies like China and India."
He called on the EU to "write competitiveness into its DNA" by repealing unnecessary legislation, continuing, "we managed to secure the first ever cut in the EU budget, now we need to do the same for regulation."
The Prime Minister pressed Britain's desire to opt out of a commitment to an "ever closer union" advocating instead a "flexible union of free member states, which protects our people and our security."
He maintained that national parliaments should remain the main source of legitimacy. He did not go so far as to propose a national veto, saying this "would mean gridlock", but insisted the EU needs to come to an arrangement where "groups of national parliaments can reject laws that are not in the best interests of their country."
He tackled the most controversial demand - migrant access to benefits - last, saying that "countries need greater controls to manage the pressures of people coming in." He insisted that "the principle of free movement of labour is a key part of the single market" although stating that this has never been an "unqualified right." He said "we need to reduce the pull factor subsidised by the taxpayer," and to restore a "sense of fairness."
To achieve this the UK need the "toughest possible system for dealing with abuse of free movement," including the right to deport "those coming from the EU who haven't found work in six months," and the requirement that people who come to Britain from the EU must live and work here for work years before qualifying for in work or social housing benefits.
The success of Cameron's renegotiations is likely to have a significant impact on whether the UK votes to remain in the EU.