Having promised an IN/OUT referendum on Britain’s EU membership by 2017, David Cameron has succeeded in muzzling the Eurosceptic wing of his party – for the moment. Some Eurosceptics are taking the “wait and see” approach, while David Cameron’s renegotiation on the terms of our EU membership goes on, under the illusion he might secure some adequate reforms. Now some ministers are beginning to realise he can’t deliver on his promises.
Most of us already knew Cameron has no hope of succeeding.
He has already abandoned all hope of restoring control over Britain’s borders, because Brussels is simply not prepared to consider reforms to the EU principle of Freedom of Movement.
He has opted to make restricting access to in-work benefits the cornerstone of his renegotiation because it seems achievable.
Unlike the much more important issue of restoring control over our borders, restricting benefits is a low hanging fruit. It would mean EU arrivals would have to wait 4 years before they could claim benefits – a modest proposal to say the least – far short of what our campaign Get Britain Out wants to see. But this was one of the few proposed reforms emblazoned in May in the Tory Party manifesto, and Cameron hoped it might stem the tide of EU migrants.
Despite some encouraging signals from EU grandees and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it has now emerged the EU will not even accept this 4-year residency test – unless it will also apply to British citizens! Whitehall lawyers told the BBC the proposal would breach EU law because a blanket ban on EU migrants’ claims would be discriminatory to EU citizens. Yet this was precisely the point of renegotiation. It was meant to force the EU to accommodate Cameron’s demands, not the other way around.
If Britain wants to restrict in-work benefits to EU migrants, fine. But the same restrictions will need to apply to Britons. In practice, it means 18-year-olds will also have to wait four years before they can claim housing benefits, tax credits and other in-work benefits.
In theory, the idea was meant to deal with one of the ‘pull’ factors which make Britain such an irresistible destination for EU and other economic migrants – generous in-work benefits. Yet by applying welfare restrictions to British citizens as well as new EU arrivals, this unfairly penalises everyone under the age of 22. Why? Just so Cameron can half-deliver on an unambitious pledge, and cover-up the fact his renegotiation is an utter failure by passing it off as a success. He would be better to follow the example of EU countries which ignore unwelcome EU laws.
It just goes to show how committed Cameron is to getting a good deal out of Brussels – if this is the best he can do, he is not even trying.
Maybe he and his team are incompetent negotiators. Maybe the EU – flush from humiliating Greece – believes Britain’s demands can be swept under the carpet and we will be forced to accept a rubbish deal. Either way, Cameron is basically waving a white flag before the renegotiation has barely begun.
The deal Cameron will present to the British public will be a joke, there’s no doubt about it. No EU Treaty changes are forthcoming because the Eurozone is currently too unstable to embark on a far-reaching constitutional shake-up. Nor is there any chance of getting all 27 other Member States to agree to shower Britain with exemptions from EU rules they all have to grudgingly obey.
Clearly Cameron is not going to deliver on his manifesto pledge to restrict in-work benefits to EU migrants. The worst thing about it is we may be stuck with welfare reforms nobody asked for which will penalise everyone under 22, whatever the outcome of any renegotiations.
Those who want to see a Britain restored as a fiercely independent nation must not sit on their hands waiting for another broken promise. We won’t Get Britain Out of the EU if we wait for an “adequate” deal which is never going to happen. Eurosceptics of all parties and organisations, Left and Right and Centre, should stop procrastinating about EU reform.
David Cameron, be warned. Britons are not fools. We will vote with our feet come the IN/OUT referendum.
Alan Murad, Get Britain Out