The Conservatives are just trying to take advantage of the EU's relative weakness at the moment. They don't see the ideal of leveling the playing field for the benefit of all, because they still see the world as 'Us' and 'Them', with the EU firmly in the latter. They want to go back to the good old days when they had absolute control, and they hope they can hoodwink the electorate into voting for it. Why do you think they would like the freedom to under cut their European neighbours? Because they wish to sell the British worker for a lower price on the international stage, for the betterment of the UK rather than the EU.
What is frequently forgotten by especially worldwide observers of the UK is that the system we have is an archaic system dreamt up by the controlling Elite in 1688 to entrench Parliamentary power. The EU consists of varying degrees of the Republic with entrenched checks and balances to empower the citizens. The UK has no such checks, and so limps along as a poor example of democracy in action. Those in power are canny enough to give enough freedom to ensure that the status quo is not disrupted, while the second chamber is maintained in as weak a form as possible, and the division between the have's and havenot's continues to rise while those who have, entrench their historical advantage through their better schools and greater resources.
With this in mind the EU project is the one great opportunity for the people of the UK to gain some rights which cannot be taken away from them. However we are currently in a time of great change. The EU is struggling with the global downturn and the need for a banking union to underpin the Euro, so the Conservative Party has seen its opportunity, maybe a quick vote now, when they are at their weakest, allied with a knee jerk isolationism from the media will swing the vote to an outright rejection?
Look at it from the point of view of those in charge: They had years of Empire which they now look back on in fond regard, only to find that in the modern globalised world they are being outflanked by issues which are stubbornly global and which require the UK to cooperate to a greater and greater degree. Gone are the days when you needed only to send a battleship to hammer a port until it opened up to trade.
So the question remains, do we wish to move away from such elitism and towards a more meritocratic world? Or do we hide behind isolationism and hope that eventually the world economy will recover enough for us to claim that our system works fine without such usual checks as a written constitution etc?
The Conservatives are hoping that they can get a vote in now and secure a new relationship which means they do not need to bow to such global pressures. One should ask what laws they/we would like to avoid, and why? Do they wish to undercut the rest of the EU by offering the UK workers at a cut price by any chance? Without any recourse to pesky human rights? Why do we want the right to set shoe sizes to a different scale (for example). How would this help? There is a reason why so much of our legislature is from the EU: there is no point in having a different rule for us. The idea that there should be one rule for one set of people and one rule for another in an anachronism.
There may be a need for review though. The EU is stubbornly refusing to move towards a more democratic system, while assuming that everyone is on board. And do we need this debate now? Surely any investment in the UK will now go elsewhere in the EU. Why invest in the UK if their access to the EU market is in question?
So will this myopic political opportunism by the Conservatives work? Can they persuade the people to vote for a change back to the 'good old days' of Empire? Only time will tell.