Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Grimace for the Cameras

As Cameron's apparent negotiations get under way, the Daily Mail has come closest I have yet seen to actually setting out what it is Cameron hopes to achieve by petitioning other EU leaders to alter our relationship with the EU. They list Cameron's demands as being:

No in-work benefits until they have been in Britain for four years
No social housing for four years
No child benefit or tax credits paid for children living outside the UK 

No support from the UK taxpayer
Deportation if they do not get a job for six months 
Other measures include:
Impose restrictions on EU migrants bringing in family members from outside the EU
Longer bans on rough sleepers, beggars and fraudsters returning to the UK
Tougher rules on deporting foriegn criminals
Refusing to allow other countries to join the EU without imposing controls on the movement of their workers until their economies have reached UK levels

Which all sound like fairly sensible steps to stop new immigrants taking advantage of the welfare system without contributing. However unless anyone can show me something different, then not a single one of these "demands" requires anything at all of the rest of the EU. No change to any of the treaties, no change to any of the policies. These are entirely a matter of domestic policy, and reflect what many EU countries already do, requiring contributions before benefits are paid. In Spain for instance you need to have worked and contributed for at least 360 days in the last 6 years before being entitled to any benefits. The only item which would require a departure from previous policy is delaying freedom of movement for new member states, but we have a veto in this area anyway and such a move is unlikely to meet with much resistance from the rest of the EU. So no change.

Cameron proposes no restrictions on the right of the EU's 500 million citizens to settle permanently in the UK. No rejection of the supremacy of EU law over British law. He is not even seeking opt outs or reforms of the Common Agricultural of Fisheries Policies.

What Cameron appears to be doing is asking Juncker, Merkel and co to "grimace for the cameras" so that he can appear as tough negotiator, winning a better deal for Britain in Europe by dressing up domestic policy as a renegotiation, while in fact doing nothing of the sort.

He will then claim this as a famous victory for Britain, and proof that we can change the European Union from within, while in fact what he is proving to those paying close attention is that he neither can nor especially wants to seriously alter our relationship with the EU.

It is a classic heir-to-Blair operation, with lots of bluster and presentation and no substance of any sort.