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IPPR - Deal closing in for UK and EU

As EU leaders discussed the UK renegotiation last Friday, IPPR considers the outstanding areas of disagreement on freedom of movement and EU migrants’ access to benefits – one of the most contentious areas under discussion.

IPPR’s Marley Morris outlines three key areas where compromise is expected:

• Length of the emergency brake
EU leaders have not yet decided on how long the emergency brake – which would limit EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits for their first four years in a graduated way – would last, and for how long it could be extended. The Prime Minister has proposed a seven year period with two three year extensions – 13 years in total – but the final deal is likely to result in a shorter period – potentially a total of 7 years rather than 13. One further likely compromise is that the final deal on the emergency brake will apply to tax credits and Universal Credit, but not child benefit or social housing.

• The UK as a special case
Eastern European member states want the emergency brake and child benefit rule changes to only apply to the UK. One likely compromise is to allow the UK, Ireland and Sweden to be ‘special cases’ on the grounds that they did not apply transitional controls after the original A8 accession in 2004.

• Child benefit payments abroad
The draft deal says that child benefit payments to EU migrants with children living in other EU member states should be indexed to the living standards of the member states where the children live, rather than paid at UK rates. Some Eastern European member states want EU migrants already living in the UK with children abroad to be exempt from these rules. One plausible compromise is that the change to the rules is allowed to apply to EU migrants already in the UK but is gradually introduced over a five year period.

Marley Morris, IPPR research fellow, said:

“The Prime Minister is in a tight spot: he will probably need to compromise to get a final deal but risks alienating voters in the UK with a watered-down package. On issues like the emergency brake and child benefit the final decisions to make are somewhat technical. But while many people in the UK will not submerge themselves in the fine details, they will matter for public perceptions over whether Cameron’s renegotiation has been a success or a failure.”

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