With just over a week having passed since the UK Independence Party won its first elected MP, and another defection victory on the horizon in Rochester and Strood, it is clear that the Conservative Party are still in a panic over Ukip.
But there was more bad news for Prime Minster David Cameron this morning as José-Manuel Barroso, the outgoing President of the European Commission, took to the airwaves to scotch his new plans to limit EU immigration into Britain, before they’d even been drawn up by Whitehall civil servants.
Cabinet Sources had been busy leaking plans for a National Insurance cap this weekend, with the intention to allocate immigrants from EU member states a national insurance number with a limited time period, meaning that those who failed to become British citizens could not stay indefinitely. According to the Sunday Times, “the national insurance cap will be a centrepiece of the prime minister’s planned speech announcing a tougher immigration policy designed to win back voters from Ukip.”
It is understood that during the speech, Cameron planned to announce a “red line” on immigration for the upcoming renegotiations over the British relationship to the EU ahead of a referendum in 2017. The cap would be set at a level designed to bring net immigration to under 100,000 a year, a target spectacularly missed by the government during this administration.
Although the plans would be illegal under current EU law, as they contrive the right to free movement of people, Cameron is banking on threats to leave the EU securing him the change.
However, Barroso, interviewed by Andrew Marr on his BBC program this morning, said “There is no possibility of the UK reducing the number of immigrants from EU to the UK. It is not up for negotiation.
“I don’t think you can say there is a huge problem with immigration – there are 2 million British citizens in the rest of EU.
“In principle arbitrary caps seem to me in contradiction with EU laws. That is quite clear from my point of view.”
Barroso also branded Cameron as hypocritical for attempting to bypass the freedom of movement, when Cameron had in the past used the principle to argue against the Spanish government preventing Gibraltarians from crossing into Spain to work.
On the threat to remove Britain from the EU, Barroso said he believes Cameron wants Britain to stay in the Union.
Earlier in the week David Cameron travelled to Rochester to speak to voters ahead of the by-election prompted by the defection of Member of Parliament Mark Reckless from the Conservatives to Ukip. According to the BBC, he told the assembled crowd that he was going to have “one last go” at renegotiating a deal on EU immigration, adding “We need further action to make sure we have more effective control of migration.”
Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, which wants Britain to leave the EU responded “It is impossible to change the free movement of peoples within Europe without a fundamental treaty change with 27 other European countries.
“Nobody wants it, nobody is interested, and the prime minister knows it’s not possible.”
Following Barroso’s remarks, Labour’s Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said: “Labour is in favour of reform to European free movement rules and we will examine any proposals the government comes forward with to manage immigration with interest. But why should anyone believe the Prime Minister when he has a record of making big promises on immigration and not delivering, when everyone knows he wants headlines for the Rochester and Strood by-election, and when the briefing from the Government keeps changing every couple of days?” the Independent has reported.
This morning David Cameron took to the pages of the Telegraph to set out his stall for the next general election, with just 200 days to go until polling day. His major message was that a vote for Ukip meant a vote for Labour, even though analysis by Labour-supporting The Fabian Society shows that Ukip is as much a problem for the Labour Party in marginal seats as it is for the Conservatives, as Breitbart London has previously reported.
Nonetheless, he writes “There would be a terrible irony if people who care about these issues [immigration, the EU, and the Human Rights Act] voted Ukip – making a Labour government more likely.
“So this is the straight fight next May: the Conservatives or Labour. Me, or Ed Miliband. We can continue with the long-term plan that is working, or wreck the progress we’ve made.
“To coin a phrase, Britain is on the right track – and we must not turn back. That is our message now and for the next 200 days.”