Cameron sets out 4 EU demands

cameron-europeThe BBC is reporting Cameron’s central ask of the EU as being

  • Protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro countries
  • Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the “burden” of red tape
  • Exempting Britain from “ever-closer union” and bolstering national parliaments
  • Restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits

These are all on themes that we have heard before. Missing are the unrealistic and wrong demands for an end to the free movement of labour, and for an opt-out from the social chapter. The latter would be a particularly foolish use of political capital when a future government might just opt back in for free.

The devil will be in the detail. EU migrants rights to welfare have been tested in the courts in other EU states too, and some greater clarity may be widely welcomed. Abandoning the contributory principle to the extent that we have puts the UK in a weaker position in refusing welfare to EU migrants than those member states which haven’t. This – differences in application of the contributory principle – is perhaps something that can be explicitly provided for without making a special case for the UK.

Overall, this ask is in the realm of the achievable – and if you believe half of the worst about the EU, then it is also a great and ambitious reform. It won’t satisfy the Europhobes, but nothing would.

Tim Farron comments

It looks like the Coalition has rubbed off on the Prime Minister. He has recognised that EU membership is critical to the UK’s security as well as prosperity. In places I thought Ken Clarke had become Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister must now stand up to the Europhobes on his backbenches and negotiate an acceptable package of changes and persuade the British public to support it.

We recognise that there are no terms that the Prime Minister can renegotiate which will satisfy some on his right wing who are determined to leave the European Union. We hope he recognises it too.

His reputation and legacy as Prime Minister, rests on his ability to negotiate a package which retains our full engagement, cooperation and membership of the European Union. It is the liberal test and one, for all our sakes, he must pass.

Update: Full letter here.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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38 Comments

  • Robert Wootton 10th Nov '15 - 1:23pm

    A central principle of the EU is the concept of Subsidiarity. The other ideal of the EU is to build cohesiveness amongst the member states. The powers that this government is after must apply to all the governments of the member states. Regarding benefits, the entitlement to national benefits must,be subject to an EU wide directive. Or the EU should pay the benefits or be reclaimed by national governments as a rebate on their membership contributions.

    However, I strongly believe that the EU as a whole should establish in law via the European Parliament an equitable Economic System that is sustainable and viable by not attempting to flout the systemic laws of viability that pertain to all organisations.

    Many ministers have used the phrase “not fit for purpose”. The organisation of national governments and of the EU structures themselves need to be re-designed according to the scientifically discovered Laws of Viability. The main law is the Law of Requisite Variety. I will leave it to others to design such a system. I have done my bit.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Nov '15 - 1:29pm

    An advert from Gatwick is obscuring part of the text.

  • OK – so the first one is fair enough. But I don’t agree with the other three. So if I vote to stay in, it will be on the basis of conditions I don’t accept and don’t agree with, while if I vote to leave, I’ll be voting for something I don’t accept and don’t agree with.

    Why can’t there be an option of “no change at all”?

  • “Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the “burden” of red tape”….When I read such statements I’m reminded of the ‘Horsemeat’ scandal…We only hear about red tape before ‘accidents’ occur; afterwards
    it’s an ‘unforseeable event’…..

  • “Overall, this ask is in the realm of the achievable – and if you believe half of the worst about the EU, then it is also a great and ambitious reform. It won’t satisfy the Europhobes, but nothing would.”

    That’s the problem – nothing short of “out” will satisfy the Europhobes. Rational argument certainly doesn’t seem to work.

    And I suspect we’ll find ourselves in “neverendum” territory if the vote is for the UK to stay in.

  • @Keith Legg – because Cameron didn’t have the backbone to stand up to his own party and promised them a referendum.

    Osborne in the same position would probably have arranged a series of “tragic accidents” 😉

  • I am fascinated by the huge gulf between convinced leavers and those determined to remain. Many people here embrace almost everything about the EU including the possibility of full rule by Brussels and a single European state. I find such concepts a complete nightmare and believe they would be a disaster.

    I’ve tried to understand the underlying thinking or traits that divide opinion in this way but I struggle to find an explanation. The two main parties are split on this whether they admit it or not. Why does this party seem to be almost united? What characteristics are at play here?

    I think Mr Cameron’s feeble wish list has all but won the Leave vote, though much can happen yet.

  • A central principle of the EU is the concept of Subsidiarity

    And this is the problem: it implies that Parliament at Westminster is no different, in essence, to a district or parish council — it’s simply one level of administration, with other levels below it (devolved assemblies, councils, etc) and above it (the European Parliament, presumably).

    To those of us who see the United Kingdom as a sovereign nation, that is not acceptable: there cannot be a level of government above Westminster. the united Kingdom is not and must never be simply one of a ‘United States of Europe’, standing to Brussels as, say, Ohio stands to Washington, DC.

    Unless some way can be found to accommodate that sovereignty within the EU — eg, by transforming the EU into an association of sovereign nations like NATO, the WTO, the UN, etc, rather than a would-be federal super-state — then ‘Out’ has to be the only option.

  • Long term restrictions on benefits and particularly a special exception for the UK will be opposed. What quid pro quo is Cameron offering? Poorer member states might ask for a special payment in lieu of the education of their more skilled workers who are seeking employment in the UK – why not?

    An exemption from ‘ever closer union’ would require a treaty change that would ask all other states to ratify UK exeptionalism, in many cases by a referendum. I doubt Cameron’s persuassive powers extend so far. In any case, in a modern world this looks like ‘stop the world, I want to get off’: in practical terms of communications and transport the world is shrinking, ‘ever closer union’ is unavoidable.

    Reduction of ‘red tape’ as Expats points out is all well and good until until ‘events’ take over. Presumably the EU will then be to blame for the lack of regulation. Nonetheless it is an area where Cameron will easily get something.

    ‘Protection of the single market’ ? – What is meant here? So far as I know it is UK banks and financial institutions that restrict the ability of EU citizens to use their services. I presume that this is a result of UK rather than EU regulation.

  • Underwhelming. What a curfuffle to patch up his own party – and what will it cost to have the referendum? At least the Grand Old Duke of York managed to march his men to the top of thrills before marching them down again.

  • Top of the hill – predictive blinking text!!!

  • JUF your rational argument is not mine. Europhobes’ (as you call us) rational arguments are not yours. Why the derogatory name? That is not rational and certainly not liberal. These days it seems as if we are unable to disagree without rancour.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Nov '15 - 2:52pm

    Perhaps, David Raw, you were right without knowing it – that could explain why ten thousand men were so eager to follow him..

  • Matt (Bristol) 10th Nov '15 - 2:53pm

    I am wary about the commitment to specific targets to cut the vaguely defined ‘red tape’.

    I certainly am not arguing that petty unnecessary bureaucracy doesn’t exist but … what does ‘red tape’ mean exactly? One person’s ‘red tape’ is another person’s vital safeguard procedure.

  • The EU debate reminds me of the foxhunting debate and too many debates I sat through as a councillor – the more I hear from one side, the more inclined I am to vote for the other. But then they get up and do a damned good job of persuading me to vote against them too!

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Nov '15 - 5:04pm

    The big problem Cameron is going to have will be over migrant benefits. This could end up like tax credits: easy to cut in principle, hard if the opposition gets organised and develops a hard line. The central and eastern European countries won’t put up with anything more than a small adjustment and as Martin says: what do they get in return?

    There is a secondary problem of “cutting red-tape”. I would change this to “supporting local businesses”. Cutting red-tape sounds ideological and in France they see ideological “anglo-saxon capitalism” as an invading force to be stood up to (lol) whereas supporting local businesses is something even le Front National count get behind.

  • in France they see ideological “anglo-saxon capitalism” as an invading force to be stood up to (lol) whereas supporting local businesses is something even le Front National count get behind.

    But in France ‘supporting local businesses’ means protectionism and regulatory capture to prevent competitive imports: the exact opposite of cutting red tape!

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Nov '15 - 5:23pm

    Yes Dav, but the rational fear is that the UK wants to suck as much money out of the EU as possible, aided and abetted by US corporations. We might not even need to change our demands, just use different language and abandon any of the more ideological ideas.

  • We might not even need to change our demands, just use different language and abandon any of the more ideological ideas

    We want less regulation and red tape.

    Now, yes, it is possible to find a form of words for this that is sufficiently vague that the French could sign up to it, thinking that it meant not less but more regulation, not freer trade but more protectionism.

    But what then? Both sides will have agreed to proceed on the basis of ‘supporting local businesses’, but what can they actually do? Any move one side proposes to ‘support local businesses’ will automatically be anathema to the other, and vice versa. But now, of course, each can claim that the other’s objections are invalid because, after all, they signed up to ‘support local businesses’, didn’t they?

    All you’ve done is make sure there will be even greater conflict in the future, because you’ve got the two sides to pretend to agree while actually being just as much opposed as before, by hiding the reality of the disagreement behind a spurious, concocted form of words that is deliberately so vague it can mean two entirely opposite things.

    That’s not a basis on which to make international agreements!

  • the rational fear is that the UK wants to suck as much money out of the EU as possible

    Given that the UK is a net contributor to the EU, if that is our aim, we are not very good at it!

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Nov '15 - 5:56pm

    But Dav, there is not even big support in this country for “cutting red tape”. It is just what I recommend, but we’ll just have to agree to disagree for now.

  • I now understand the reasons for the LD performance in the EU Parliamentary elections.

  • Christoher Haigh 10th Nov '15 - 6:51pm

    The Liberal Democrats need to stay well clear of this insane debate and let Cameron stew in his own juice.

  • @Peter “I am fascinated by the huge gulf between convinced leavers and those determined to remain.”

    Yes, this is going to be very polarising. I expect the resulting bad blood will last long after the referendum itself has been decided, and that many issues after will be decided not on their merits, but on where people stood on the EU (e.g. “We need to make some people redundant. OK, who do we know was on the wrong side in the EU referendum? Sorted.”).

  • @JUF You surprise me for several reasons.

  • jedibeeftrix 10th Nov '15 - 8:52pm

    Re: Opting out of the Social Chapter “The latter would be a particularly foolish use of political capital when a future government might just opt back in for free.”

    The only argument this ‘wins’ is the one that no parliament should be able to bind another. Which applies to anything and everything a government may choose to do:
    > Banning performing clowns unless they have a PCGE qualification
    > Banning the raising income tax back to 50%
    > Mandating the consumption of papaya on the anniversary of Kier Hardy’s death
    > Mandating the reporting of cyber breaches for institutions other than banks and ISP’s
    > Stricter regulation of custard based roofing products
    > Stricter regulation of government drag-net data collection outside of targetted criminal enquiries
    > Institution of the freedom from death duties oweing to the third sons of cart wrights
    > Institution of the freedom for migrants to report lower than min wage employers without legal consequence
    Is the rigid and stratified society you want, Ed?

  • Mark Wright
    Certainly since the 70s, it has always been an article of faith in the Liberals and Lib Dems that we want democracy at different levels, and that spreads upwards from very parochial and local to international / supranational. We do NOT see national boundaries as a limit to democratic governance, because, as Bearder et al explain, there are many issues where cross-border cooperation is essential. Having discovered representative democracy works better than most alternative systems, it seems logical to extend it to those areas.

    If you notice, this is very different from right wing Tory and, especially, UKIPpy concepts of democracy, which tend to the unitary – where Westminster / central democratic power is exercised. It is noteworthy how poor at Council level UKIP people often are, and, frankly, when I have been witness to public debates with UKIP participation they often lose arguments through this, among several other failures. Peter’s reference to “understanding the reason for poor Lib Dem Euro-election performance” may be so when there is little on the ground campaign to explain issues in other terms than the europhobic media, but when there are good candidates and a good campaign, elections at that level are perfectly capable of being won.

  • James Ridgwell 11th Nov '15 - 8:22am

    hi Joe, thanks for the article, and in particular for highlighting the contributory/non-contributory issue re: EU migrants and benefits. As you say, other member states simply don’t face the same issue we do due to the largely unique (in the EU) way we have chosen to set up our welfare state. While I would hope other members states are sensible enough to recognise this (and to recognise that there are deep issues of fairness around this that if not addressed could cause the UK public to vote to leave) I agree it would be helpful if that issue can be addressed in general terms in the negotiations (ie to achieve fairness to host state taxpayers with regard to EU migrant access to non-contributory welfare states wherever they might be ), rather than this being pitched (unfairly) as yet more british exceptionalism. I do support withholding benefits from EU migrants for a period of time, to be fair to UK taxpayers, to avoid our tax credit bill having no upper limit due to EU immigration and to head off other solutions the Gov might choose instead, such as cutting TCs for UK citizens a lot! Ultimately, I think the UK Gov’s list of demands is sensible, although the red tape point is pretty meaningless, at least at the moment.

  • At the moment it’s like trying to make a decision about which way to turn in a thick fog. When making an important decision in my personal life I make a list of pros and cons. The list is drawn up with honesty. Are the Lib Dems capable of drawing up such a list in relation to staying in or leaving the European Union? Who can the voters trust to present an accurate and honest list? All politicians seem to do is make up their minds and thrust their views on us. There are presumably pros and cons to staying in even a reformed European Union. What are they???

  • @Anne – I didn’t intend to cause offence with “Europhobes”. Not sure what label would be non – loaded (“outers” maybe?).

    But, to your main point, I think on this issue, it is very difficult to disagree without rancour. For me (and I suspect many here) this is part of our political DNA.

    The LDs were formed from a Liberal ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism ) party and a Social Democratic ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy ) party. To me, while the EU is imperfect (as all human institutions are) its core aims are straight from these traditions – freedom with social justice. For all its faults, it represents the triumph of civilisation over the barbarism that went before.

    Since today is armistice day, I feel it is a particularly good moment to consider the merits of peace, prosperity and ever closer union versus war, poverty and nationalism.

  • Pat 11th Nov ’15 – 8:26am……………….At the moment it’s like trying to make a decision about which way to turn in a thick fog. When making an important decision in my personal life I make a list of pros and cons. The list is drawn up with honesty. Are the Lib Dems capable of drawing up such a list in relation to staying in or leaving the European Union? Who can the voters trust to present an accurate and honest list? All politicians seem to do is make up their minds and thrust their views on us. There are presumably pros and cons to staying in even a reformed European Union. What are they???………….

    Were it only as simple. The drawback of such an approach is,what appears as a ‘pro’ on one person’s list, appears as a ‘con’ on another’s….

  • Expats – while I agree that one person’s pro is another person’s con, which political party or politician are the electorate to believe?
    Tim Farron – please present us with a clear, accurate list of what it means for the UK if we stay or if we leave.

  • please present us with a clear, accurate list of what it means for the UK if we stay or if we leave.

    This is not possible as not only can nobody tell what the effects of leaving will be (for example, our trade with the EU will not stop overnight; but it is likely to fall at least somewhat; but how much is impossible to tell in advance), but also no one knows what changes the EU will undergo as a result of the multiple ongoing debt crises (of which Greece’s is only the most dramatic) and whatever other disasters may be waiting in the wings.

    So not only can no one give a list of what the effects of leaving will be, no one can give a list of what the effects of remaining will be. The only thing that is certain is that, whether it includes Britain or not, the EU of a decade from now will have to be radically different from the EU of today if it is to have survived at all. Perhaps there will be a monetary union of the Eurozone countries with balance transfers from richer to poorer nations; perhaps not. No one knows.

    Remain or leave, both courses are fraught with uncertainty.

  • Little Jackie Paper 11th Nov '15 - 8:51pm

    Pat – ‘which political party or politician are the electorate to believe?’

    How about the electorate form their own value judgment?

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