EU should help Cameron before it’s too late

| December 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

david-cameron_1939896cOn his tenth anniversary as leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron must fear that his Brexit plebiscite will be his tombstone. It is inconceivable that a British prime minister who isolated Britain from Europe can stay in office.

So Cameron has to find some solution so he has to tell his party and indeed himself that the last 20 years of Tory Euroscepticism has been a giant political cul-de-sac.

But the EU also can do more to help. Cameron has ditched all the loud-mouth Eurosceptic demands to focus on four objectives. Words can be found on the increasing competitivity and strengthening the role of national parliaments – both goals that every Europhile can endorse. Promising a future UK opt-out from commitment to the phrase ‘ever-closer union’ in some future EU Treaty – whenever it happens – is not a real problem especially as a different UK government in the 2020s can overturn it.

The sticking point is how to deal with the fact that too many EU member states have exported their unemployment to Britain in the last decade. Tusk’s record as Poland’s prime minister is based on part on decanting 140,000 Poles each year to work in Britain and other EU countries to send back remittances to help lift the Polish economy.

No-one can challenge the four freedoms of movement in the EU – of goods, services, capital and people. But such freedom of movement is not unqualified. Even with my Ph D Italy and Spain will  not allow me to teach in their universities without first passing protectionist national exams.

A sequence of chaotic and contradictory briefings following Cameron’s visit to Warsaw last Thursday (10 December) have left up in the air exactly what the British prime minister now wants but it does seem clear that no-one is going to vote to allow the British government to discriminate against European workers doing the same job in the same firm as British workers.

Wiktor Mosczynski, a senior Brit-Pole has suggested a variation. He proposes that any application for Polish benefits by UK citizens and for British benefits by Polish citizens made within 12 months of their first arrival in the country of destination, be frozen for that first 12 months of arrival until the relevant health, tax and social services of the country of origin have been able to assess and reveal the applicant’s true financial status.

It is a sensible half-way meeting point to discourage abusing the benefit system and the EU must work with Cameron to find a solution before disaster strikes.

It cannot be right for the UK to be the EU’s employer of last resort because it is easier for the Polish or Greek or Spanish governments to export their unemployed to Britain rather than change their internal economic management to create jobs.

Britain needs to move swiftly to reduce the access to low pay benefits for all workers whatever passport they hold. Tusk and Juncker should welcome such a move and close a deal that allows sensible Tories to defeat Ukip and the rest of the political class to defeat Brexit.

Denis MacShane is the UK’s former minister of Europe and author of Brexit : How Britain Will Leave Europe published by IB Tauris.

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Category: A Frontpage, Brexit, Denis Macshane, EU, Featured Article, Opinion, UK