Why are we asking this question now?
In the next 24 hours we should know whether the Prime Minister has succeeded in his aim of getting 'a new deal for Britain' that will form the basis for voters to decide whether or not they want the country to stay in the European Union. Talks are due to start with other EU leaders on Thursday night - and will carry on Friday morning. We will know by lunchtime whether or not they have been successful and what the exact nature of the deal is.
What is David Cameron asking for?
Britain's Demands fit into four broad areas or 'baskets' as the Government likes calling them. These are: Sovereignty, Competitiveness, Migration and protection from the Eurozone. On sovereignty Cameron wants more power given to Parliaments to block Brussels legislation and a recognition that Britain does not sign up to the concept of ever closer union.
On competitiveness he wants the EU to reduce regulations emanating from Brussels and to extend the single market to areas like banking and insurance where the UK is traditionally strong but where it is harder to operate across 28 member states.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
On migration he wants a so-called emergency brake which would allow the UK to stop paying in work benefits to new migrants moving to the UK and an agreement that child benefits would only be paid at the rate migrants would get in their home countries. And finally he want assurances - in EU treaties - that as Eurozone countries move to integrate their economies those countries like Britain that don't have the single currency are not disadvantaged.
That doesn't sound like very much - why are other countries objecting to it?
There is no outright opposition to all David Cameron's requests - but some areas are causing difficulty for other countries for understandable reasons. Eastern European countries do not want their citizens disadvantaged by the new benefit rules and correctly point out that Britain is benefiting not only from their labour but also from the taxes they pay in this country.
Other countries, such as Belgium, have long wanted more and not less Europe so are concerned at any language that might rule out further integration in the future.
There are also some concerns that the protections the UK is seeking for Eurozone integration might give Britain an effective veto on measures needed to secure the success of the single currency - and ones which could hand the City of London an unfair advantage over the financial centres in France and Germany.
But will we in Britain see any substantial change if this package is agreed and we decide to stay?
Not immediately - and probably not in ways that we would recognise as such. However if British companies find it easier to expand into other European countries that will create some new jobs at home. If Brussels regulates a little less then this could make it easier for some companies to do business and employ more people.
Equally with the Eurozone if these new rules are accepted Britain will be able to carry on without the threat of changes down the line that could effectively force us to choose: join the Euro or leave the EU all together.
This still doesn't sound like very much?
Well it isn't really. But the problem Cameron has is that the big problem many voters have with the EU is not fixable.
No other country in the EU is going to allow Britain to restrict the number of migrants who come to this country to work because it would violate a key principle of the EU: Free movement of people. When that is taken off the table it is quite hard for the Government to come up with a deal that is clearly and easily sellable in a referendum campaign.
So will David Cameron's EU renegotiation make any difference at all to life in Britain?
Not in itself - but if it is not enough to persuade voters to stay in the EU when they cast their ballots in the referendum - then life will change very fundamentally in this country and in a way which nobody can predict. In reality this deal is about allowing David Cameron to claim that he has changed Britain's relationship with Europe in a way that tips the scales in favour of staying in.
But ultimately we will all be voting on the wider question of whether we want to be in the EU or not. That is a much more profound question which completely dwarfs what is being haggled over in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.Reuse content