Yesterday, in a factory in Wiltshire, David Cameron announced that he had agreed a deal with Donald Tusk (that needs to be ratified at the Brussels summit February 18 and 19th I hasten to add) essentially laying out what the British public will be voting for if they mark “Remain” on their ballot papers come the referendum (which looks more likely than ever to be held in June). So what did he get?
Admittedly less than he’d hoped on the four year in work benefits caps deal (but a four year benefits cap deal nonetheless); the interesting item for me in the whole thing was the red card thing. This gives national parliaments within the EU a great deal more control over halting legislation from Brussels they don’t like. A cornerstone plank of Tory Euroscepticism over the last decade has been the need for a red card system to be in place. Both in public and in private, many Conservative MPs have talked at length about how if we only had some sort of red card option, then they could stomach remaining in the EU. So it was interesting to see Cameron secure this concession only to watch these very same Tory MPs deride it. In the words of Nicolas Soames MP, it was indeed “hypocritical” of them. It demonstrates – as if we didn’t know already – that no relationship with the EU, no matter how favourable, will ever be good enough for a certain type of Conservative MP.
Cameron looked tired – but he’s currently on an exhausting tour of Europe getting his deal, so what would you expect? He’s also gained some weight (now I’m just being bitchy towards him).
There were some key reaction to the speech yesterday – two in particular. Theresa May said she thought it was “the basis of a deal”, which makes it look very likely she is going to not campaign for Leave at the very least. This is huge for Cameron – he’ll want to neutralise the immigration argument as much as possible during the referendum short campaign. May on the other side, saying opposite things about the EU and the ability to control immigration from within, would have carried a lot of weight. So yesterday was a huge victory for Cameron on that front.
The other reaction was more frightening for the prime minister. Boris went on the radio and took the piss out of the deal, basically saying he didn’t think it was good enough. However, I don’t think this means that Boris is going to campaign for Leave. I believe that he just wanted to nail his colours on this to the post, on a crucial day, so that in a leadership contest he can quote himself on the subject to appeal to the Tory membership. He can’t paint himself as the Reluctant European, who went along with the whole thing out of loyalty to David Cameron.
So in summary: a good day for pro-Europeans. While we’re a long way from the finish, many of the worst obstacles to staying in have already been removed. But again, there’s a long way to go yet.
Both in public and in private, many Conservative MPs have talked at length about how if we only had some sort of red card option, then they could stomach remaining in the EU. So it was interesting to see Cameron secure this concession only to watch these very same Tory MPs deride it
Presumably though they meant a red card system that could be invoked by Britain?
It doesn’t seem hypocritical to say that you could stomach staying in the EU if there was a system whereby Britain could unilaterally either stop, or opt out of, any EU legislation that we didn’t like, and then to point out that this is not the same as a system which requires 55% of national parliaments to agree to use it.
“essentially laying out what the British public will be voting for if they mark “Remain” on their ballot papers come the referendum”
It may be what we’ll get if we do vote to remain, but a vote to remain won’t necessarily be a vote in favour of the benefit cap nonsense.
If migrant workers are a net benefit to the UK – which the figures say they are – then removing incentives for legitimate migrant workers makes no sense. It’s just politicians trying to boost their own popularity at the country’s expense.
Robert Pettitt says
It’s a financially shrewd decision for the government.
Benefit caps won’t stop EU migrants coming over to the UK to work because the standard of living is just so much better than in the old Eatern Bloc,
Benefit of migrant workers will be retained and the welfare cost will be cut – though I imagine it will be peanuts in the grand scheme of things.
People will still kick off about migrants ‘stealing their jobs’ and others, like you, will object on the basis it goes too far. Any further reform will have to wait for a new government.
I just wish they’d get on with the vote.
I’m fairly convinced that the pro-vote will win massively (with or without these changes), but if I was an undecided voter I would want to know where the EU is heading and why that’s a good place rather than just hearing the same old negative spiel about the UK outside of the EU.
“Benefit caps won’t stop EU migrants coming over to the UK to work because the standard of living is just so much better than in the old Eatern Bloc,”
Certainly, if you think of all EU migrants as people from poor countries with no marketable skills and no alternative choices.
But perhaps the UK is currently benefiting from people who don’t fall into that category?
Rob Pettitt says
I don’t really get your point.
Do we have migrant workers who come from France and Germany? Yes, of course we do.
Are they worse off under the system change? Yes, they are.
If they choose to migrate home will we miss their skills? No. The Eastern Bloc migrants do have marketable skills and alternative choices. I wouldn’t for a second suggest that those from the ‘better off’ countries have more marketable skills. The only benefit of migrant workers from countries like Germany and France over those from further East is the notional idea that we might have a more common heritage and therefore better social cohesion and that’s probably not even a thing.