Cameron was probably thankful for events in Paris as it allowed him to duck away from a number of embarrassing revelations which have recently emerged.
Cameron has been under pressure for weeks to announce what concessions he’s planning to negotiate back off the EU. One of those is the right to stop migrants claiming benefits for 4 years. To back up this claim he tried to suggest that 43% of EU migrants have claimed benefits. This is a figure that is vigorously disputed by many, including the UK statistics Authority, not least because the data behind it seems fairly dubious.
However, even looking at the Tory figures, a large portion of these relate to working tax credits (which is more of a tax rebate after all) and other work related welfare payments. Their estimates (and they are just estimates, i.e. probably a wildly exaggerated guess) suggest 20-28% of EU migrants may have claimed what we would normally understand to mean “benefits” (about 2.5% of the overall DWP case load). However even within these figures, the government misses an important point – that more than 72% of EU migrants have paid taxes for benefits, which Cameron proposes to strip them of the right to claim. Obviously this raises the question, shouldn’t they be given a tax rebate? Or should they be allowed to reclaim such tax if they leave before the 4 year period is up? (which many will do).
Keep in mind that the whole argument in favour of non-dom status is that they don’t put the same level of pressure on public services, so they pay less tax. Well surely if we deny EU migrants certain benefits, shouldn’t they too get some sort of tax discount? Or perhaps we should pay the tax to their home state?
Indeed there is a precedence here, Ireland and the UK have tax arrangements which pre-date the EU. These rules mean that if I went home to Ireland tomorrow, the first thing the Irish government would do, once they realised I was back living in the country, is ring the DWP and request all of my NI contributions be sent to them. If I moved back to the UK (or as happened when I moved over here) my Irish and UK NI contributions would have followed me back to the UK.
So it would not be unprecedented for the Polish or Romanians to demand similar arrangements from the UK in return. Of course, the government isn’t going to go along with that…at least not without Osborne’s dead body being made available. The fact is that paying benefits to a handful of EU citizens (possibly only in the tens of thousands of claimants) is outweighed by the taxes that millions of EU workers pay into government coffers. This would cost the UK billions a year, more than enough to screw up all of Osborne’s austerity plans, likely requiring him to either abandon this policy, or raise taxes.
Meanwhile the government has been trying to come up with ways of how to implement such measures. Unfortunately at every turn the government’s own lawyers have warned that it will be next to impossible to implement them without denying large number of British people benefits, or opening massive legal loopholes. E.g. if a Polish plumber suddenly doesn’t have to pay NI rates, he can offer a 20% discount on all of his services and undercut British competitors. If workers (British or EU) lose working benefits, won’t they be better off quitting work and going on the dole? (so you’ll be needing IDS dead body along with Osborne’s!).
Meanwhile in Oxford….
And in rural Oxford, the local county council recently received a letter from a Mr Cameron (a local toff with a known pig fetish). He lamented how the council is cutting back on public services, reducing bin collections, forcing him to have to send his butler off to take his Bollinger bottles to the tip, meaning his smoked salmon was subsequently served lukewarm and late.
The council, lead by conservatives I might add, pointed out that they’d be glad to comply but they had a problem with these dickheads down in London who kept cutting their budget. Cameron, suggests that things weren’t that bad, why council’s had only been subject to a “slight” cut and why couldn’t they just turn off a few lights or sell up some property and everything would be fine.
Oxford council responded by pointing out that a cut of £72 million could not possibly be described as a “slight fall” (then again, to Cameron its probably about as much has he spends on Caviar and champagne per year) and that the council has already let go 5,000 staff. And selling off property is hardly a sustainable way of funding a council, quite apart from the fact that it would be illegal under the council’s own rules.
And in other developments, Cameron is accused of trying to lobby Thames Valley Police to save his local police service. The level of cuts to policing is so severe that already some crimes have been effectively legalised as the police don’t investigate them anymore. And with further cuts planned its now feared likely that “bobbies on the beat” will become a thing of the past.
Cameron now faces the possibility of being reprimanded for breaking the ministerial code, by putting pressure on civil servants for the sake of his posh neighbours.
Meanwhile another leak (which I take as a sign civil servants are getting fed up) suggests that behind the scenes the Tories now accept that their cuts to renewable subsidies are going to mean missing their green energy targets. This could well cost the country more than it saved via the subsidy cuts when you factor in the fines from the EU the UK will face and the costs of buying and installing a lot of power projects in a hurry to keep the lights on.
The fact is that what these events show is just how out of touch Cameron and his government is. How they are easily the most incompetent, self serving government the nation has ever had. The position that Cameron now faces, be it in Europe or rural Oxfordshire was entirely predictable. No concessions he could wring out of the EU were ever going to placate the euroskeptics, this policy of austerity is inevitably going to mean cuts to services and if the latest info is to be believed their cuts too renewable subsidies now raises the risk of power cuts from January onwards.
I hope anyone who voted Tory is proud of how things are going.