It has been a long time coming, it has had the build-up of a Sam Goldwyn epic. We might expect seas to part in his wake, plagues of locust and such like to descend on his critics and manna to arrive – not from heaven but from Brussels.
I write of course not about Moses and the Ten Commandments but of David Cameron and his four demands. Unfortunately what we were given this week was not so much a blockbuster, not even a B-movie, but more of a trailer for something we will not miss if we slept through it.
The Prime Minister has put his renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with Europe at the heart of our country’s future. It is he, after all, that says it will give us the reasons for remaining as members of a stagnating economic bloc that is struggling to emerge from its eurozone-induced doldrums. It was he who, in his robust Bloomberg speech, his many other outpourings at Conservative conferences, this year’s Conservative manifesto and in countless interviews has put his heart on his sleeve about being willing to leave the EU if he did not get a good deal.
Is he honestly saying that he would advocate leaving the EU if he did not get such minor alterations that already have Eurocrats laughing at us?
Honestly. The insincerity of the man knows no limits.
Tony Blair must watch David Cameron and think he is facing a looking glass. His heir, his political doppelganger, his greatest admirer – as Cameron put it “heir to Blair” – has built the whole renegotiation up to such a crescendo only to literally run out of wind in the wind section, tie his strings in knots and brass off the majority of those waiting to applaud his masterful conducting.
He has requested worthless demands which will, after a fabricated argument, be granted – because they have already been pre-agreed – and therefore he will have secured results that are worth nothing.
It is a confection. It is a fudge. It is all a deception.
As an example of what I mean let me reveal to you some research about how Cameron’s demands can actually make the concerns he is supposed to be addressing become worse.
Research from Vote.Leave – which is based upon government information in the public domain – shows that if Cameron is indeed able to negotiate a restriction on benefits for EU migrants, the living wage introduced by George Osborne would still increase the take-home income of the lowest-earning EU benefits claimants with no dependents by £57.99 per week – or £3015.48 a year – by 2020. This is in comparison to economic forecasts if the Chancellor had not introduced the living wage.
Yes, that’s right, creating the living wage has the effect of raising the minimum benefits that all people would be entitled to, migrants or not.
Believe it or not that £3015.48 is the good news. For single earners with no dependants their take-home income would increase by £134.23 per week – or £6979.96 a year – by 2020 (again when compared with forecasts before the living wage introduction).
This would be an increase of more than 60 per cent compared with the results Cameron hopes to achieve when he set out his plans to limit EU benefits.
What we have is one Cameron policy being cancelled out by one Osborne policy – and they are both in the same government. They are in fact next-door neighbours.
Personally I don’t think many immigrants come to the UK for benefits – they come for jobs, they come for earnings that are far higher than in their homeland (even when they are low by UK standards) so they can send back a remittance to help their families. If they do take benefits it is in the nature of education, housing and healthcare if their families settle hear too – but that’s not what Cameron is trying to (or can) restrict.
Cameron has set up a straw man to attack and thinks it will show him as tough and victorious. It will change nothing, but because of the living wage the UK will become more attractive for migrants and he will have no controls to stop people coming.
There is another view that says Cameron is a skilled negotiator. That Cameron will pull off a great deal and staying inside the EU will be worth it. That we will be able to stop future EU legislation we don’t like. That we will not be dictated to by the eurozone countries even though they will have a majority of votes when it comes to deciding future laws and the future finance needed for them.
I sometimes think Hibs will win the cup, that I will be able to retire at 60 (it used to be 50) and that mutton pies will be shown to cure cancer.
The risks of staying in the European Union are now becoming greater than the risks of us leaving and taking control of our own laws, our own borders and our own destiny. One thing is certain, whatever deal Cameron pulls off it will not be one that reforms the future direction of the European Union.