George Osborne
British Chancellor says there are 'hard negotations' ahead for the Conservative government.Getty Images

British Chancellor George Osborne hailed the EU's draft reform deal over the UK's renegotiation with Brussels as "real progress". The Conservative minister welcomed Donald Tusk's proposals just minutes after the European Council president published the much-awaited document.

"We've got to make sure that the regulation coming from Europe is less burdensome [for British business]," Osborne told the London audience. "These documents, if you look at what's been achieved so far, you will see real progress. From changing the EU, from reforming the EU and reforming our relationship with the EU."

But the UK Chancellor stressed that there was "more work to be done" and that David Cameron and the government faced some "hard negotiations" with EU leaders and top civil servants over the next couple of weeks, where the Tories hope to "nail down" important details.

Osborne also urged small British businesses to get involved in the forthcoming EU referendum, which is expected to be held in June 2016.

"I want to make sure that you, as small businesses, have your voices heard because you are going to be on the sharp end of the economic consequences of the decision that the country takes and the potential uncertainty that may follow," he warned.

The chancellor's comments come after Cameron welcomed the draft reform deal. The prime minister claimed the proposals laid out in the document would "deliver substantial change" to Britain's relationship with the 28-nation bloc.

But Tusk's planned reforms do not include a ban on EU migrants in the UK from accessing benefits for up to four years. The proposal was one of Cameron's four major reforms. Vote Leave, one of the two groups vying to win the Electoral Commission's designation for the official Brexit campaign, claimed the prime minister's demands had been "watered down in every area".

"The very limited set of demands from our government have been watered down by the EU in every area," Rob Oxley, head of media for Vote Leave, said. "The British people want to take back control and end the supremacy of EU law over our economy, our borders and our Parliament."

He added: "None of these changes even come close to the fundamental changes promised to the public. We are being asked to risk staying in the EU based on the back of empty promises from the EU that are not even backed up in Treaty. The only safe option is to Vote Leave."

The latest opinion poll from YouGov, of more than 1,700 people speaking on 27 and 28 January, put the "leave" campaign four points ahead of "remain", at 42% versus 38% respectively.