The prime minister's renegotiation is important to everyone across Britain whether they want the UK to remain a member of the EU or – like me – to leave.
To have lasting credibility, any deal struck needs to work for the long-term, not just to get EU leaders through a sticky patch. The draft proposals do not meet that test. The limited answers to what was itself a limited negotiation seems to be designed primarily to give the 'Remain' side something to work with in campaigning for the status quo.
Immigration remains one of the top issues in this country. There are plenty of things that this government can and is doing to control immigration from outside the EU. These include introducing proper exit checks at our borders, closing down bogus colleges, cracking down on illegal and sham marriages and reducing the number of appeal routes to stop people clogging up our courts with spurious attempts to remain in the country. But we are working with one arm tied behind our back if we cannot address numbers coming from other EU countries.
As the son of an immigrant, I have seen the good side of migration. People coming to the UK with skills, the will to work hard and who value good education contribute so much to this country economically and culturally. However mass, uncontrolled immigration puts pressure on our schools, hospitals and housing, and it can cause social pressures if communities do not integrate.
The expansion of the EU was originally seen as a good thing by some Conservatives in order to dilute the influence of the larger countries like Germany and France. The consequence of this was to bring in countries such as Romania and Bulgaria with economies totally out of step with the UK. The EU was always going to come under strain in absorbing such disparate nations. Coupled with extraordinary conditions arising from the Mediterranean refugee crisis, western European countries are having to look again at their immigration policies.
Arguably the biggest pull factors for migrants looking at coming to the UK are our successful economy and the creation of 1,000 new jobs every day. The UK welfare system also acts as a pull factor with generous in-work benefits available almost immediately. The prime minister was right to seek a four-year ban on in-work benefits and an end to the perverse situation of child benefit being sent to children living abroad.
The results so far suggest that the four-year ban has become a four-year escalation, with migrants gradually being eligible for more benefits each year within that qualifying period.
The end of the repatriation of child benefit has become a horrendously complicated fudge where migrants will be able to claim benefits equivalent to the local cost of living in their country of origin. Not only does that mean some poor civil servant at the Department of Work and Pensions having to work out 28 different rates of child benefit but it may be that some people's benefits increase.
The 'emergency brake' in the proposals has to be approved by the European Parliament after legislation has been drafted by the European Commission. Even in one of Google's driverless cars, the emergency brake is controlled by the person in the driver seat. In this case, our emergency brake is fully under the control of the EU. If activated, it lasts for a maximum of four years. But what happens thereafter?
Donald Tusk, president of the EU Commission, has outlined a proposal to address sham marriages and clearer guidance on using grounds of national security as a reason to curtail individual rights to the freedom of movement to work. These are positive messages. Beyond this, there is little to suggest a desire to come up with a long-term solution to an immigration problem that is showing little sign of slowing down.
The EU Commission seem to be acting like a parent shoving a lollipop into the mouth of a wailing child with a sense that the UK will vote to remain a member of the European Union. If that happens, the commission will have set the benchmark, knowing what they need to do in the future in order to pacify their troublesome semi-detached child.
I remain of the view that the status quo is the riskier of the two options. In building a single market we should keep breaking down barriers but we should not replace them with protectionist walls. That is why I want to look outwards across the globe to the developing economies in the east and to our friends in the west while retaining the best of our partnership with European countries. Most of all I want my country, not the EU, to be in control of this exciting new chapter in our long history.
Paul Scully is Member of Parliament for Sutton & Cheam