David Cameron's ever-shifting view of Britain's place in EU
David Cameron has come a long way in how he views Britain’s place in the European Union. Over the years, long before the even started, the prime minister has made a series of bold comments, half promises and pledges.
Tuesday’s draft agreement demonstrates that only a handful of his commitments have been delivered. Here is a selection of some of them:
• In 2009, he promised that a Tory government would stop the European court of justice by limiting its jurisdiction. The government has since to 35 justice and home affairs measures, including the European arrest warrant.
• In 2012, Cameron said that the government was “committed to revising the working time directive”, a set of EU-wide working standards. However, last December, George Osborne, told the Treasury select committee that this formed no part of the negotiation. Back in 2007, before becoming prime minister, Cameron had even pledged to pull Britain .
• The prime minister also promised in the Conservative manifesto last May to push for further reform of the EU’s common agricultural policy. This promise was not part of the renegotiation as it was likely to face fierce opposition from some member states.
• Cameron said in early 2014 that he would put in place . Tuesday’s documents make it clear that there will be no changes to the EU’s governing treaties – including its headline principle of “ever closer union” – ahead of the vote because this would not be feasible in the referendum’s timeframe.
In any event, Tusk said in Tuesday’s letter that the principle of ever closer union is already not equivalent to an objective of political integration, and the substance of this will be incorporated into the treaties when they are next revised.
• Last year Cameron said that he . Such a measure is contrary to the principle of free movement and as such was also not part of the negotiations.
• When the renegotiations formally began Cameron started by asking for a cap in the number of EU migrants allowed into the UK. That , in 2014. She was not very impressed.
• The prime minister had to think of a new idea and proposed – – that people coming to Britain from the EU must live in the UK and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing. It has proven to be the most controversial – albeit the most precise – of Cameron’s demands.
What he is set to get is the dilution of an already diluted idea: an “” on in-work benefits for up to four years. The one-off restriction would not amount to an outright ban on benefits either but would be graduated. That means that EU migrants would receive no benefits upon arrival but would get an increasing proportion each year – another piece of complexity for an already over-complex benefit system.
When it came to the formal negotiations, Cameron’s other requests included:
• . This was also watered down. The UK will be allowed to index the payments to the country where the child is based.
• On measures to crack down on the abuse of free movement, members states will be able to take action against fraudulent claims and sham marriages, as well as against individuals who pose a threat to national security. None of these measures would appear to be new, but are simply based on the interpretation of current rules.
• On “economic governance”, Cameron had asked for a series of principles to be recognised ranging from a simple recognition of the idea that the EU has more than one currency, and that taxpayers in should never be financially liable for operations to support the eurozone as a currency.
Here Cameron did better, although only because Tusk clarified, in effect, that all these things are already covered by existing rules and principles.
• As part of the competitiveness basket, Cameron had said he wanted the EU to be more competitive. In response, Tusk has to increasing efforts to enhance competitiveness. It is probably not surprising that the contents of this basket proved the easiest to agree on.
Nevertheless, however much has been negotiated away, . Take the emergency brake: just a month ago the measure seemed to be off the table but now it is a centre piece of his pitch to the British people. The European commission has accepted that the UK is facing exceptional circumstances due to high levels of immigration and must be allowed to do something about it – assuming the British people vote to stay in the EU.
However, the vast majority of the words in the are dedicated to clarifying how existing rules and principles can be applied to ease British fears. The achievement is somewhat distant from the grander aspirations set out by Cameron over the past five years, but in the end it may be enough.