Pig-headed David Cameron had to say something after EU countries knocked him back yet again on his mission to break one of the four pillars of EU membership by restricting free movement from other states to the UK.
They said core EU principles must always include non-discrimination and free movement, and they said he had backtracked into accepting that.
So he has claimed he has found a “pathway to progress”.
It means nothing – apart from being an admission that he has not made any progress at all.
And the agreement to find a “common solution” by February?
It will be a solution that enjoys majority support. Cameron – in a minority of one – will be told to take it, or leave.
David Cameron said on Thursday night that he had found a pathway to progress on his mission to create a new settlement with the European Union, after four hours of make-or-break talks with Britain’s European partners ended with an agreement to find a common solution by February.
In a late night press conference in Brussels, Cameron said the task ahead was very tough, and emphasised that he had not taken his widely rejected demand for a four-year ban on EU migrants receiving UK in-work benefit off the negotiating table.
But other EU leaders said he had backtracked by accepting he could not discriminate against citizens other EU member states.
In perhaps the most encouraging response in the wake of the meeting, Germany’s Angela Merkel said it may be possible to agree to a principle of treaty change now, but to implement those treaty changes later.
She said: “We made it clear that we are ready to compromise, but always on the basis that we safeguard the core European principles, which include non-discrimination and free movement.
“Especially regarding the fourth pillar [on welfare benefits] it won’t be easy, but I still think that with good will we can find good solutions.”
When David Cameron woke up this morning (Tuesday), it may have been to the realisation that he said too much in response to a grilling by Jeremy Corbyn over Europe yesterday.
Cameron had been to a meeting of the Council of Europe, the regional intergovernmental organisation with 47 member states best know for its operation of the European Court of Human Rights. One of the subjects he discussed there was the UK’s attempts to renegotiate the conditions of its membership in the European Union. He said:
“On the UK’s renegotiation, I set out the four things that we need to achieve. The first is sovereignty and subsidiarity, where Britain must not be part of an “ever closer union” and where we want a greater role for national Parliaments.
“Secondly, we must ensure that the EU adds to our competitiveness, rather than detracts from it, by signing new trade deals, cutting regulation and completing the single market. We have already made considerable progress. There has been an 80 per cent reduction in new legislative proposals under the new European Commission, and we have reached important agreements on a capital markets union, on liberalising services, and on completing the digital single market. Last week the Commission published a new trade strategy that reflects the agenda that Britain has been championing for years, including vital trade deals with America, China and Japan. But more needs to be done in that area.
“Thirdly, we need to ensure that the EU works for those outside the single currency and protects the integrity of the single market, and that we face neither discrimination nor additional costs from the integration of the Eurozone.
“Fourthly, on social security, free movement and immigration, we need to tackle abuses of the right to free movement, and deliver changes that ensure that our welfare system is not an artificial draw for people to come to Britain.”
Mr Corbyn instantly drew attention to matters that the PR Prime Minister had failed to mention. Noting that full discussion of the UK’s in/out referendum had been deferred to the December European Council meeting, he said:
“I think that all of us across the House and people across the country would echo the words of Chancellor Angela Merkel when she asked the UK to ‘clarify the substance of what it is envisaging’. There have been indications from Government advisers that the Prime Minister is trying to diminish the rights of UK workers through opt-out or dilution of the social chapter and the working time directive. However, other sources say the Prime Minister has retreated on those proposals.
“Working people in Britain are losing trust in a Government who attack their trade union rights and cut their tax credits, while giving tax breaks to millionaires.
“Will the Prime Minister confirm that Britain will remain signed up to the European convention on human rights and will not repeal the Human Rights Act 1998? The lack of clarity and openness from the Prime Minister means we do not know on what basis he is negotiating. Too often, we have been guided by anonymous press briefings from his inner court.
“Does he agree with Angela Merkel, as we on the Labour Benches do, that ‘there are achievements of European integration that cannot be haggled over, for example the principle of free movement and the principle of non-discrimination’? Again, clarity from the Prime Minister on that would be welcomed not just, I suspect, by his own backbenchers but by millions of people across the country.
“We believe we need stronger transnational co-operation on environmental and climate change issues, on workers’ rights, on corporate regulation and on tax avoidance.
“We will continue the European reform agenda. Labour is for staying in a Europe that works for the people of the UK and for all the people of Europe. We will not achieve that if all we are doing is shouting from the sidelines.
“On the referendum, will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government will now accept votes at 16 for the referendum, as per the amendment in the House of Lords?”
He also told Cameron that Labour will be “on his side” to support the proposed “red card” mechanism to give national Parliaments greater powers of influence over European legislation: “In fact, it is such a good thing that it was in Labour’s manifesto at the general election.”
Now on the back foot, Cameron had to work hard to regain the initiative. He started by claiming that the discussion of the referendum had not been deferred, but that the meeting in October had always been intended as an update, with a full discussion in December.
But he went on to contradict himself on “what we were delivering for working people in Europe”. Cameron said: “We are delivering two million jobs here in Britain for working people, with tax cuts for 29 million working people. I have set out in this statement again the reforms that we are pressing for in Europe.”
But later he added: “We do need to reform free movement; it should not be free movement for criminals or for people who are benefit shopping, for example, and we are already taking steps to ensure that that is not the case.”
So, he has delivered more jobs alongside tax cuts – making the UK a more attractive location for EU residents looking to immigrate in – but he wants to bar the entrance. This looks like a lie, to make it seem that Cameron has achieved something worthwhile.
The facts are that the jobs are low-paid and the tax cuts do not make up for the amount of income that working people have lost over the last five years of Tory rule. With the forthcoming tax credits cuts, millions of working people will no longer have enough money to make ends meet. That is the shame of the Conservatives and it is understandable that Cameron would want to hide it.
His dilemma is that it is his own rhetoric about his (imagined) achievements that is making the UK attractive to EU immigrants. We know the jobs are awful and the tax system has been skewed to benefit the rich, and we also know that the social security system has been sabotaged by Iain Duncan Smith – but that is because we live here. Citizens of other EU states are not so lucky. If Cameron was honest about the mess he has made of this country, his immigration problems would evaporate. His own public relations skills have betrayed him.
And worse was to come: “Our plans for a British Bill of Rights are unchanged. We want to get rid of the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.
“We voted in this House of Commons on votes at 16, and we voted against them, so I think we should stick to that position.” This will not please the Scots, where the voting age was lowered for their own referendum on whether to remain in the United Kingdom, and where democracy enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity as a result.
Finally, there’s the elephant in the room. It is unfortunate that Mr Corbyn did not raise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, one of the “vital trade deals” that Cameron mentioned. In its current form, this would mean control of workers’ rights, working conditions and the quality of products would be transferred from elected parliaments to faceless international corporations. It is the biggest threat to democracy facing us.
Rafał Trzaskowski, Poland’s secretary of state for European affairs, seems a little confused.
He seems to think that, before voting on whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union, the electorate should be given fair and accurate information on the consequences.
Doesn’t he know that this simply is not how things are done here?
Look at the Scottish independence referendum. Scots are still complaining that the ‘Better Together’ campaign fed them false information. Some of these complaints are inaccurate but This Writer can’t say for certain that all of them are.
Look at the general election last month – won by a Conservative Party that manipulated Scottish people into believing that a vote for the SNP was the best possible outcome, while telling the English this meant the nationalists would team up with Labour to rob them blind.
Now the Tories have secured power – albeit by a tiny margin – they are setting about their own agenda, which involves – you guessed it – robbing the people of the UK of the services and benefits for which they have paid, all their lives.
The media have been complicit in these deceptions.
It is unrealistic to think that anything will change for the EU referendum.
The Guardian reports:
The minister, who reiterates his country’s refusal to accept Cameron’s central demand – that social benefits should be denied to all EU migrants for at least four years after arriving in the UK – says Britain would no longer be an important player, in Europe or the world, if it left the EU. He warns that the ability of British people to travel as freely as they do now, and to work and buy homes in other EU countries, would also be lost, and that UK businesses would suddenly face new problems, as the country would no longer be able to influence the rules of the internal market.
Trzaskowski, reflecting growing fears in the EU that the UK government is setting itself unrealistic targets for reform which British people are being led to believe are achievable, says all European leaders want Britain to stay in the UK, but not if it means undermining EU principles, such as the free movement of labour.
Cameron is now urging fellow European leaders to reach an outline deal on the UK’s demands, which also include an opt-out from the EU commitment to “ever-closer union”, by the end of this year, in time for the referendum to be held next year.
Should he fail to secure reform on his terms, more than 50 Tory MPs are poised to lead the campaign for the UK to quit the EU.
Is anybody else in two minds about Labour’s newly-announced plan to increase the period of time before immigrants into the UK can claim benefits – from three months to six months?
Some commentators are bound to see it as Labour leaping on another right-wing bandwagon, restricting access to the country for people who can bring much-needed skills to our shores (more on this in a moment).
But our membership of the EU means people from other member states must be allowed to move into the UK if they wish to do so. Until recently that was not a problem – where was all the fuss about the French and German immigrants in the 1970s? There wasn’t any – because the member states’ economies all functioned at a similar level. That changed when the eastern European states were allowed in; they were not functioning on the same level and this meant migrating to the more developed countries became an attractive option for the impoverished people of those lands.
That’s when people started to think UKIP had a point. Whether rightly or not, they saw eastern Europeans coming here, taking British jobs or sitting on benefits, and even sending some of the money they made back to boost their home country rather than ours.
What’s the solution?
For the Labour Party, leaving the EU is not an option. Membership of the Union brings benefits that are important to this country at this time (at least in the opinion of Labour planners – your mileage may vary). It would be unreasonable to forbid people from moving into the UK after being offered a job here by a UK based employer. That leaves governments with only one lever to pull – one that restricts payment of state benefits to immigrants.
Realistically, that is the only option available in the current circumstances. The sensible solution would have been for the EU to reject countries’ bids for membership until their economies had reached a par with the rest of the union – but that didn’t happen. Now that these countries are in, the sensible option would be for the EU to work on bringing their economies up to scratch, in order to make emigration pointless; poorer members of those societies would be no better-off elsewhere.
On the issue of immigrants bringing skills to our shores – this seems to include very basic manual-labour skills like catering and cleaning, and the criticism has been levelled at the British that they just don’t want to get their hands dirty any more. This seems justifiable. If UK-based employers can’t fill the bottom-level jobs with members of the local population, what are they supposed to do? The jobs have to be done.
It wasn’t always like that; back in the 1980s, school leavers (or students on long holidays) used to pick up pocket money by stacking shelves in supermarkets, working in care homes (which could be extremely unpleasant, depending on the habits of the residents), in fish and chip shops, cleaning offices, in pubs… Yr Obdt Srvt used to work nights at a printing company, getting newspapers ready for distribution.
There seems to have been a failure in education, in socialisation or in remuneration. Do young people not have the skills to take even these entry-level jobs? Are they no longer being told that it is good to get a grounding in the workplace by taking these jobs? Or do they simply not pay enough to motivate people who are relatively comfortable, living with Mummy and Daddy and claiming benefits? The answer to the last issue isn’t to reduce benefits because people who don’t have such comforts would be unfairly penalised; it is to make work pay in fact, instead of only on Tory slogans.
So Labour would increase the delay between arriving in England and receiving benefits from three months to two years; would stop immigrants sending child benefit and child tax credit payments back to their home countries; and would “curb in-work benefits paid to EU migrants”, according to the BBC.
Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Rachel Reeves was quoted as saying: “”Child benefit and child tax credit are for children who live in this country, and we would stop it being sent abroad.” Who could argue with that? In-work benefits are “not supposed to support people from day one in this country” and can encourage employers to undercut wages, she added. Again, anything that discourages employers from pushing wages down is to be applauded.
The plan to withhold benefits for a longer period is supported by a European Court of Justice ruling that recently allowed similar changes to German laws. It is recognised that there is an abuse problem that must be addressed.
Other parties have their own plans on immigration. UKIP’s are well-known, and David Cameron has tried time and again to find a Conservative-style solution – most of which seemed to hinge on pretending he had made changes when in fact he hadn’t.
It seems likely that Labour’s plan will be lumped among these by the general public – and certainly by commentators with vested interests – as a right-wing bid to restrict people’s freedoms.
That’s a shame, when one considers an aspect of the plan that is unique to Labour – a demand for an “EU Migration Impact Fund”, paid by the European Union from within its existing budget, to help regions where immigration has increased the population by paying for increased school places, medical staff or housing.
You won’t get that with the Tories or UKIP! Why? Because their policies rely on telling you that the EU never gives anything back to the UK. Does anybody remember the flooding at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year? David Cameron had the right to request EU cash – from a fund specifically set up to help in exactly those circumstances – and he let the deadline pass for political reasons, passing the burden onto the British people instead.
Deception? – The controversial UKIP advert using an Irish actor, who plays a British worker replaced by cheap Labour from Europe.
YouGov research for the Sunday Times has put UKIP in the lead in the European election contest, with support from 31 per cent of those who were surveyed.
This put the Eurosceptic party three points ahead of Labour (28 per cent) and a massive 12 points ahead of the Conservatives (just 19 per cent).
But does this really mean the Party with its Foot in its Mouth has the people’s confidence? Take a look at these comments from the Vox Political Facebook page and form your own conclusions. I hasten to add that this is an unscientific survey, composed of comments from those who had the most to say.
We’ll start with those who support the party.
Most vocal is Denise Cottham. She writes: “Mr Farage has the guts to actually ‘SAY’ what many other people just ‘THINK!’ We respect him for this. He speaks the TRUTH & is not out to deceive the public like the major parties have done all these years, while growing fatter & richer at the country’s expense! And exactly where does the Green party stand regarding the EU? They make appealing promises, but will be unable to keep them without ASKING permission from the EU!!! UKIP priorities make sense, staying in the EU does not.”
Denise Morris adds: “I’ll be voting UKIP and so will many, many other concerned with EU policies that mean we can’t kick out radical hate preachers, without it costing the taxpayer millions and not only that we’ll pay their benefits, get them a nice big house and all while our human rights lawyers try to prevent their deportation, thanks to the EU. It’s no wonder people are looking for other alternatives. Currently our only serious hope is UKIP. We all know where the Cons, Lab and Libs stand, so voting for either of these parties won’t solve anything.
“They are the only party that can take on the other major parties and are gaining popularity. People are fed up with broken promises, lies, the open door policy. I don’t like all of UKIP’s policies, but I don’t like all the Cons’ or Lab either. Labour betrayed the working classes and the Cons have tackled the economy, but at a cost to who? The poor, the vulnerable, so I am totally with you on that one. I have to vote for what I think is best for the future of this country and my children and grandchildren and as I see it, that’s UKIP at the moment. If Labour gave us a referendum and promised to save the NHS, restrict immigration, tackled the economy, then I would seriously consider voting labour but that isn’t going to happen sadly. It’s like being between a rock and a hard place and we need a serious shake up of politics in this country. Something has to change and for the better and maybe the challenge from UKIP will do just that.”
She seems to have confused the European Union with the European Court of Human Rights… “The fact is the British people were conned big time on the EU. We thought we were entering a common market and now most of our laws are made in Europe. Their judges take precedence over our own judges. We were never given the referendum we should have got and UKIP are the only party guaranteeing one. If that happens then MPs can start voting with their conscience again, instead of voting for party policies.”
Regarding the controversial poster in which a foreign actor (from Ireland) was used to represent a British worker whose job had been taken away by evil immigrants, Craig Burnside writes: “UKIP arent against immigration, they just want to control it like countries like Australia and the USA do and outsource jobs.”
On the other side we have the following messages.
From Neil Wilson: “I honestly thought nobody could run a worse PR campaign than Bitter Together in Scotland re: the Independence Referendum, But I have to say UKIP are managing to do so in only a week. My particular favourite is the fact you can send their leaflets back to the Freepost address and they get charged for each one. So, they come to your border (door/letterbox) and you send them packing and make them pay for it. After all it’s what they would have wanted don’t you think? very apt. Although the Boarders typo is running a close second. I would vote for somebody to protect me from boarders, particularily old Etonians. But … best just to keep quiet and enjoy watching them make a monumental cock-up of a campaign all by themselves.”
From Kim Burns: “It’s the irony that’s amusing us. Of course we’re not going to vote UKIP! They don’t like women going out to work, they want to reduce maternity leave to 4 weeks, they want to reduce taxes for the rich and increase them for the poor! Read their manifesto, people!”
We would if we could find it! How about this, from John Elwyn Kimber: “Those who wish to register a Eurosceptic vote without empowering the odious UKIP might be lucky enough to have a candidate representing the late Bob Crow’s ‘No to EU, Yes to Democracy’ campaign – as in the Eastern counties. Or vote Green.”
From Bette Rogerson: “Why would you vote for a party that says it hates Europe, but at the same time takes lots and lots of money from the European parliament? Why vote for a party whose members advocate policies like less tax for the wealthiest, cutting of maternity leave and forcible sterilisation of the disabled? Why vote for a party who wants to take the vote away from the unemployed? Is your job really that secure? Lastly but not least, why vote for a party which claims it wants British jobs for the British and then hires an Irish actor to model as a poor Briton whose job has been taken away by a foreigner?”
Of course, I have also weighed into these discussions. Here’s my response to Denise C: “The facts are against you. Why is Farage now trying to block an inquiry into his MEP expenses? What does he have to hide? Why, if he’s so keen on preventing foreigners from taking British jobs, did his party hire an Irish actor to pretend to be a British worker in a poster? Why did he hire a German to be his PA (and, come to that, what about the nepotism inherent in the fact that this person is his wife)? Why did the UKIP poster showing an ‘ordinary’ British woman who was going to vote UKIP actually show a party member responsible for public relations? Put all these things together and it seems UKIP and the truth are a huge distance apart.
“Look at UKIP members and the appalling things they have been saying. Farage moves to shut them up and kick them out whenever they do, but a point has to be reached soon when he – and the rest of us – realises that this is the natural mindset of his party and, as such, it is unelectable.”
To Denise Morris’s comments about European judges, I pointed out: “The European Court is different from the European Union, Denise. If Britain withdrew from the EU, it would still be a part of the court. Also, UKIP is very clearly not the only party guaranteeing [a referendum] – it’s not even the only right-wing, reactionary and repressive party offering such a guarantee.”
I added: “The Cons have not tackled the economy. If you believe that, you’re not paying attention. I’m glad you agree that the poor and vulnerable have suffered in any case. Labour has promised to save the NHS and tackle the economy (in a more meaningful way than the Tories). Labour’s attitude to a referendum may seem less than wholehearted but my impression is that they think it would get a knee-jerk reaction that would show what people do not understand about our participation in the European Union, rather than what they do – your mistake about the European Court is an indication that they might have a point.
“Regarding immigration, my personal belief is that the EU – including the UK – made a big mistake in allowing free movement between countries including new member states whose economies were not yet up to par with the better-established industrial nation states. All they have done is de-stabilise both the states from which people are emigrating and those into which they immigrate… so I would like a tighter policy on this, not just here but in the Union as a whole.
“And those who complain that we voted ourselves into an economic community, not a political union, are correct too. All of these things can be remedied from inside the EU, and if we were to withdraw rather than try to tackle them as a member state, the result would be worse for all of Europe in the long run. UKIP does not see that and the Conservatives cannot see past their own greed and corruption – look at who funds them (bankers and private health firms) and you’ll see that this is the case. The Tory Democrats have sold their souls but Labour is just beginning to find its own soul again. That’s why I think Labour is the best hope for Britain next year.”
Responding to former Labour voter Brian Taylor, who said he wasn’t enthused with UKIP but they would get his vote until a viable alternative came along, I wrote: “Do you really want a flat-rate of 31 per cent income tax, that hugely benefits the extremely rich and enormously harms the poor? That’s UKIP policy.
“If not, you probably want the Green Party, which would also hold a referendum on Europe but is far less Tory in its outlook. I can’t imagine a former Labour voter would honestly want to vote for a party that was further on the right of the political spectrum than the Conservatives.”
So what’s the conclusion?
Well, from this snapshot we can see that, as Denise Cottham and Brian Taylor claimed, people think all three major parties have deceived the public and will do so again. Labour in particular is seen as having betrayed its core constituency – the working classes – in favour of Daily Mail readers and bankers who simply won’t vote for any party more left-wing than the Conservatives. Worse still, for Labour, is people’s belief that the party has been told – time and time again – what it needs to do, but has continually ignored this good advice. UKIP’s problem is that its new advertising campaign also deceives the public, and leader Nigel Farage’s eagerness to block an inquiry into his MEP expenses suggests further jiggery-pokery.
People in general also seem to be genuinely disgruntled with the EU’s ‘free movement’ policy which allows people from any member state to take up residence in any other member state. There is evidence to show that it was a mistake to allow less-developed countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, to take advantage of this policy as many of their citizens have immigrated into the more prosperous regions – leaving their own countries struggling to build their economies, and threatening the stability of the destination countries, whose infrastructure is left struggling to cope with the influx.
UKIP supporters are primarily interested in having an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union, but – as Denise Morris demonstrates – do not seem to understand clearly the issues on which they will be voting. Denise’s concern about the laws preventing us from deporting foreign-born ‘hate preachers’ would not be addressed by leaving the European Union as it comes under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
Their grasp of other UKIP policies seems catastrophically poor, though – policies including restricting work opportunities for women and cutting maternity leave, reducing taxes for the rich and raising them for the poor (to a flat rate of 31 per cent), sterilisation of the disabled (if Bette Rogerson’s research is correct), and ending universal suffrage by stopping the unemployed from voting.
They also seem to have a weak grasp of other parties’ policies regarding the EU – the Green Party wants a referendum but Denise C thinks they don’t.
My overall impression is that UKIP is still gaining support as a party of protest, rather than because people have any belief in its policies. The person on the street – whatever their belief – feels “utterly powerless… hopeless and increasingly disinterested”, a sentiment expressed by Karlie Marvel on the Facebook page today.
That’s why UKIP is ahead today.
It isn’t a good enough reason and the other party leaders can now see what they need to do about it – especially Labour.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.