LONDON – Prime Minister David Cameron says a historic deal agreed by all 28 European Union leaders gives the U.K. "special status in Europe." The agreement, won after two days of wrangling in Brussels, makes changes in four areas where Britain sought a less intrusive relationship with the bloc. Here are the key points:
A LEVEL ECONOMIC PLAYING FIELD
Britain sought, and got, protections for it and the other eight EU countries that don't use the euro single currency. The leaders' agreement says moves by the 19 eurozone countries to bring their economies closer together are voluntary for the other member states, and stresses that businesses in non-eurozone countries must not face disadvantages within the EU's single market.
The deal also says financial regulation in non-eurozone countries is a matter for those countries' own authorities — a guarantee Cameron had sought for the Bank of England. Non-eurozone countries can also seek a debate in the EU if they think eurozone economic measures are a problem. Countries including France had warned that could give Britain an effective veto on eurozone financial decisions.
LESS MONEY FOR EU MIGRANTS
The EU leaders stressed that free movement of people is a key principle of the bloc. But because Britain's economy has been a magnet for hundreds of thousands of EU migrants in recent years, the U.K. is allowed to impose temporary restrictions on the benefits paid to EU workers in Britain.
After a tug of war between Britain and eastern European nations — who supply most of the U.K.'s migrants — it was agreed that new workers coming to Britain from the EU will have to wait four years before receiving benefits such as tax credits and child payments. The exemption lasts for seven years, less than the 13 years Britain had sought.
Child benefit payments for children who live in their parents' home countries will be indexed to the cost of living there, rather than to costs in Britain.
The EU's treaty commitment to an "ever closer union" among the people of Europe is a particular bugbear for Britain, where politicians often raise the specter of a "European super-state." This new deal makes it explicit that "references to ever-closer union do not apply to the United Kingdom."
In one of the least-controversial sections of the deal, EU leaders vowed to strengthen the EU's internal market and improve regulation by lowering taxes and paperwork for small and medium-sized businesses and cutting red tape.