David Cameron claims he’s close to getting the other EU states to agree to an “emergency brake” on benefit payments. He seems to think this will win him the EU vote that he must surely regret agreeing too. Clearly he’s not reading the same newspaper headlines I’m reading, because almost nobody else seems to think that these “reforms” will effect the outcome of the referendum.
Let us analyse what’s proposed. He claims that the other EU states will allow him to stop benefit payments if he can prove the country is being “overwhelmed”. Well given that the vast majority of EU migrants work and pay taxes and the amount spent on them is tiny compared to what the country pulls in when they pay tax, it would take some doing for him to be able to argue this and get all the EU countries to agree in future to let him apply “the brake”.
Indeed the latest draft suggests “the brake” will be applied straight after the referendum for four years, then presumably withdrawn when it becomes obvious that most of those it would effect are simply finding ways around it (e.g. lie and claim you’ve been here for 4 years with a few easily faked utility bills, getting a British passport or simply stop paying tax (as one of the main benefits to be effected will be tax credits)) and the fall in tax revenue and greater spending on benefits fraud means its costing more than it saves.
Also there’s the small matter of the courts, both those in Strasbourg or London, who could well decide that such a “brake” was illegal. The recent ruling regarding the bedroom tax being a case in point. It’s very likely that sometime before those four years are up that it will have been stopped by the courts. Also, as I’ve pointed out before, what about non-doms? Is Cameron really suggesting that a billionaire non-dom should pay very little tax because he doesn’t use the UK’s social welfare system, but a Polish builder who also isn’t allowed to use it does have to pay tax.
So in essence and much as I predicted a couple of years ago, Cameron is trying to get something that will be utterly meaningless and impossible to actually implement. But he’s counting on holding the referendum before the UKIP bigot brigade smell a rat and realise they’ve been had. His actions are predictable because its quite clear has neither he, nor his advisers have any clue how the EU works, nor have they even bothered to read any recent EU treaties.
The are many arguments for leaving the EU, although most of them simply don’t add up. Hence, why the “out” campaign plan on stoking people’s fears over Islam and plan to fight the referendum over the issue of non-EU migrants in Calais. And on that point, its worth remembering that much of the immigration debate relates to non-EU migrants. Of course I’d argue that if there’s one thing that demonstrates why we need an EU its the recent refugee crisis. This crisis is a crisis because migrants and refugees have been exploiting the Schengen passport free zone (which is not an exclusively EU idea, Norway and Switzerland). But a lack of co-operation by EU states (largely because many governments, including the UK, are playing a game of beggar thy neighbour to avoid having to do anything that might upset the bigot brigade back home) has prevented them from resolving the crisis.
If the UK left the EU, then the rest of the EU would have even less of an incentive than they already have to do anything. I could envisage Hungary and Greece organizing shuttle buses directly to the channel ports (with the French withdrawing all security from the tunnel) in the hope that they’ll abscond and become Britain’s problem and not the EU’s. And there will be nothing to stop the desperate from simply using other tactics to get in the country…such as simply buying an airplane ticket or smuggling themselves in on a freighter.
And a study by the LSE suggests that leaving the EU would increase the influx of non-Europeans into the UK (i.e. more scary Muslims, Africans and Asians to put that in Bigot speak). This is not surprising given that the economic pressure put on the UK economy by leaving would mean the country would have to maintain a liberal immigration policy, or risk curbing economic growth and falling quickly behind the rest of Europe.
Ultimately if Cameron wants to win this vote, he needs to confront the bigot brigade within his own party and insist that any referendum is fought on the genuine issues of whether the UK is better off in or out. I would even go so far as threatening to cancel the referendum if any of them so much as mentions the word “migrant”. Of course that would require Cameron himself to be honest and not trying to con the public.