EUROPEAN Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker today backed the draft agreement on Britain’s future membership of the European Union as a “fair deal” for all sides.
Mr Juncker told the European Parliament the deal recognised the UK’s desire to remain in Europe but avoid moves towards “ever closer union”.
He said: “I have always said I wanted the UK to remain a member of the European Union on the basis of a fair deal. The settlement that has been proposed is fair for the UK and fair for the other 27 member states.”
Mr Juncker continued: “Like Prime Minister Cameron, we all want the European Union to become more competitive and to create more jobs. We must not stifle innovation and competitiveness with regulations that are too prescriptive and too detailed, notable when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises.”
The Commission president also reassured other EU members states that the deal offered to the UK would not stand in the way of their own ambitions to work more closely together.
“The UK benefits from more protocols and opt-outs than any other member state. This is why as a matter of law, as a matter of fact, the concept of ever closer union has already assumed a different meaning in its case.
“The settlement recognises this. It recognises that if the United Kingdom considers that it is now at the limits of its levels of integration this is fine.
“At the same time it makes clear that other member states can move towards a deeper degree of integration as they see fit,” he said.
Members of the European Parliament today debated the draft deal set out by European Council president Donald Tusk yesterday.
Manfred Weber, leader of the majority EPP group, said: “What we want is for the UK to stay on board and we want the people fo the UK to be convinced of the fact it is better to stay in the family.
“Of course MR Cameron has fought hard for his particular views but we don’t want a British Europe. We want a proposal that would be better for all. That should be the centrepiece of the discussion.”
French MEP Marine Le Pen, leader of the ENF group, described the negotiations over Britain’s membership as “theatre” and said the British people wanted to leave.
“This whole thing will be seen for the charade it is and will collapse completely and people will get their sovereignty back.”