Calls from David Cameron’s own backbenchers to strengthen his threat for Britain to leave the EU have been called ‘a victory for UKIP’.
Ahead of his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Downing Street, where the pair were due to discuss the crisis in Europe’s economy, the Express reported senior backbencher David Davis told the BBC’s Today programme that Mr Cameron’s threat needed to be taken seriously.
The former leadership contender said the Prime Minister needed to persuade Mrs Merkel that the “prospect of us leaving [the EU] is real, it is not just sabre-rattling”.
“We have got to get across to her that there should be no mutual misunderstanding about this. That is the first thing to get across, that this is not sabre-rattling, this is for real and the changes are material.”
Eurosceptic Tories are said to be angered that Mr Cameron took out a hard line policy in his speech on EU reform only 48 hours before he was due to give it, at the behest of the German government.
The Prime Minister had previously said he would demand an ‘emergency brake’ to control numbers on EU immigration, a policy which has since fallen by the wayside as the Germans have made clear that a change to the fundamental principles of free movement within the European Union is not up for renegotiation.
Instead, the Conservatives, who have promised a referendum in 2017 if they are re-elected this May as a majority government, are focusing on benefit and welfare reforms. Their proposals include requiring migrants to have a job offer before coming to the UK and a four year moratorium before migrants can access key benefits which are used to top up low wages – or in the case of child benefit – sent abroad where they form a considerable chunk of a household’s monthly income.
Mr Davis’s warning comes as UKIP leader Nigel Farage called the changes Mr Cameron was proposing “cosmetic”.
He said it was “ridiculous” to expect the European Commission, who are the government of the European Union and the guardian of the treaties, to make an exception for Britain on a fundamental principle like the freedom of movement which is considered vital to the single market model.
“Germany is facing its own problems at the moment and would not want Britain to start turning away EU jobseekers, potentially redirecting them to seek work there,” he said.
But the Prime Minister’s office played down reports that the European Commission is already raising objections to policy proposals including a clamp down on access to social services and benefits.
Instead, Mr Cameron’s spokesman stressed that the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who the Prime Minister vehemently opposed for the powerful and highly paid position, was happy to discuss proposals for change.
The fact remains that if Mr Cameron’s own side are telling him to be tougher with the German Chancellor then there is reason to cheer in the UKIP camp.
Nigel Farage has previously criticised Mr Cameron for ruling out the UK leaving the political union, saying he was refusing to play his trump card.
With a household name like Mr Davis now parroting the words of the UKIP leader, Mr Cameron’s authority may be waning and the questioning of his ability to deliver real reform will only get louder.