Defiant David Cameron heralds 'strong and powerful' EU reforms

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron
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The Prime Minister claims he has secured 'important changes' to Britain's relationship with the EU as he dissects the official response from the European Council.

Claims he's been forced to water down his demands on immigration and benefits were dismissed by David Cameron as he defended his reputation on how he's handled EU negotiations so far.

President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, released his draft proposal for how Britain could remain within the EU but on different terms this morning, and this will now need to be agreed by all 27 member states at a crunch meeting held later this month.

While Mr Tusk has agreed to proposals on sovereignty, competitiveness, supporting the pound and immigration, Mr Cameron said on changes to migrant welfare, he had achieved more than anyone expected and there was no chance of the country losing itself within the 'EU superstate'.

End something for nothing

He said instant access to in-work benefits system would stop, with full payments not made until after four years, and also championed that child benefit will be paid at the local country rate.

He said: "We should end something for nothing. What is proposed is an emergency brake which means we don't have to pay full rates of welfare.

"I was told I would never get a four year proposal and yet that is what is in the document.

"This is a 'big change' and something the country was told it wouldn't be able to achieve.

"I think that is a very strong and powerful package.

"We've secured some very important changes which go directly to the issues that we raised as a member of the European Union.

"I think we will be able to argue that we have got the best of both worlds."

Best of both worlds

He said the changes proposed are clearly different to the deals that other member states have, and put Britain at a clear advantage.

However it was pointed out that in Mr Cameron's manifesto he had asked for a complete end to child benefit being exported abroad and that migrant workers would not be able to claim tax credits for four years. Mr Tusk said tax credits should be gradually phased in, so that the full benefit isn't available until the fourth year.

There was also criticism that Donald Tusk had not committed to a full treaty change on certain issues, and that decisions made could be reversible further down the line.

When asked if he thought the proposals delivered by Mr Tusk were a serious 'compromise', Mr Cameron said: "No I don't think it is at all. What I asked for was no more 'something for nothing'."

He added that Mr Tusk's documents were a legal instrument and there will need to be treaty change, which he fully expects to happen and they were far from a 'vague promise'.

He was criticised by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for delivering his speech at a Siemens factory in Chippenham in Wiltshire, rather than facing MPs questions in the House of Commons.

However he said it was important to deliver the speech in a setting that represented manufacturing - an area that could benefit from a reformed EU relationship.

Leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, said the document from Donald Tusk was 'pathetic' and the country is still an open door to 500 million people.