David Cameron, no doubt a huge fan of of former US President Bill Clinton, has said in response to public unease about the possibility of a large number of Romanians and Bulgarians coming to the UK without restriction from 1st January, ‘I share those concerns’.
Great! That should do it. Thanks Dave.
OK, in fairness, there’s more. Cameron is attempting to construct a legend for himself by giving the impression he is going to reform the EU. But for Cameron to achieve what he claims he wants, that ‘reform’ would necessitate tearing out the very foundations of the European project, by changing one of the Four Freedoms that underpin the march to ever closer union – namely the freedom of movement of EU citizens within the bloc.
As Richard explains over on EU Referendum, an article in the press today sets Cameron, a committed EUphile, at odds with the central tenets of the EU:
That piece is headed, “Free movement within Europe needs to be less free”, with David Cameron colliding head-on with the most fundamental of all the EU treaty provisions, one that goes right back to the 1957 Treaty of Rome.
With the Mail telling us that Mr Cameron “will today unveil sweeping new restrictions on access to benefits for EU migrants”, we learn that he “will insist that he shares the public’s ‘concerns’ about a renewed wave of migration from Europe”, declaring that “the founding EU principle of ‘free movement’ for workers has gone too far”.
Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, he writes in the Financial Times, Britain has championed the case for bringing nations which languished behind the Iron Curtain into Nato and the EU. That is important to their prosperity and security – and ours.
Britain, he says, has also been one of the strongest supporters of a single market. It is in our interests for that it should grow, and for our citizens to have the opportunity to work in other European countries, he adds.
But, he now says, “things have gone wrong”. Since 2004, we have witnessed the biggest migration in Europe outside wartime. In Britain’s case, one million people from central and eastern Europe are now living here.
There is much more in a similar vein that Richard extracts and shares. But then this leads us to an issue I raised recently where the EU is being blamed for inaction on the part of the UK government.
Where Cameron says he is, “changing the rules so that no one can come to this country and expect to get out of work benefits immediately; we will not pay them for the first three months”, he is only seeking to apply rules that the UK could have applied a long time ago. Continuing with his theme, Cameron says that:
If after three months an EU national needs benefits”, he adds, “we will no longer pay these indefinitely. They will only be able to claim for a maximum of six months unless they can prove they have a genuine prospect of employment.
But again, this is what other EU member states already do. Cameron is still constrained by EU law. Brussels is not going to be the least bit concerned about the UK doing what, for example the Netherlands, already does. Even where Cameron talks about testing benefit claims by migrants, it has always been the case that if EU nationals are incapable of supporting themselves in another member state, they can be returned home. The UK has failed to apply such sanctions, something that UKIP has consistently ignored thus missing another open goal for attacking the failings at a UK level of both Labour and the Conservatives.
So there is nothing new under the sun when Cameron says that if people are not here to work, if they are begging or sleeping rough, they will be removed. They will then be barred from re-entry for 12 months, unless they can prove they have a proper reason to be here, such as a job. Those are the existing rules the UK could have long since applied, but failed to.
We have to get through all this nonsense and verbiage before we finally see Cameron get to the heart of this issue, which he has sought to bury as deep as possible in the detail, when he points out what EU Referendum has long explained and this blog has tried to reinforce – that all this is what we can legally do within the limits of the treaties Labour signed up to.
So after a trip around the houses, Cameron brings us back to his ‘reform’ agenda for the EU and that now is the time, he says, for a new settlement which recognises that free movement is a central principle of the EU, but it cannot be a completely unqualified one.
Having pointed out that other countries already see free movement as a qualified right, as the interior ministers from Austria, Germany and the Netherlands have said this to the European Commission, Cameron is actually showing us the EU has not changed its fundamental freedom and that his demands for reform come a long way behind those of other countries. Quite how the EU can ‘return the concept of free movement to a more sensible basis’ when that freedom was always intended to be absolute and never existed on a more sensible basis, is curious. But then, this is Cameron and he only has a passing acquaintance with reality.
Clinton felt the pain of an AIDS campaigner and Cameron is sharing the concerns of ordinary people who are paying the price for politicians giving away this country’s independence. But ultimately nothing changed for the AIDS campaigner and nothing will change for the British people. Not, that is, unless the UK asserts independence and frees itself from the political construct that has cost us so much for comparatively little benefit.
The EU calls the shots and its bureaucrats will continue to have their own way. Some countries are frustrated and their people angry. But that is cancelled out by other countries being delighted at the largesse lavished on them in return for joining the club and extended the control the EU enjoys.
The only solution is for the UK to leave. But that is something Cameron will never do. He is the classic empty vessel. As for his promise to remove jobless EU migrants, we’ve heard it all before…