EU Referendum

A deal full of spin and sell-outs: JAMES SLACK’s examines what David Cameron wanted out of the EU draft and what he got

  • He was looking to ban EU migrants from being paid in-work benefits
  • Cameron was also hoping to crackdown on illegal sham marriages
  • PM also wanted powers to ‘stop terrorists’ who pose a threat from using human rights arguments to prevent deportation


What he wanted: A ban on EU migrants being paid in-work benefits for the first four years they are in the UK.

What he got: An emergency brake allowing benefits to be restricted for up to four years if our public services or welfare system are under pressure. But there is a huge catch – the EU insists the ‘limitation should be graduated, from an initial complete exclusion to gradually increasing access to such benefits’.

In other words, EU workers will lose out on benefits for only one or two years then begin receiving payments until – after four years – they will not lose out at all. Details on when the brake can be pulled are vague but, crucially, the final decision will rest with Brussels.

Verdict: An ugly compromise that campaigners say will make little or no difference to net migration from inside the EU, which stands at 180,000 a year. Three quarters of EU workers get little or no tax credits and, in any case, the new £9 living wage will ensure Britain remains a magnet for workers from low-paid countries. The brake will be implemented only if Britain votes to remain in the EU. Eurosceptics fear Brussels could renege on the promise, or it could be blocked by MEPs.

The British Prime Minister (left) managed to get a emergency brake allowing benefits to be restricted for up to four years if our public services or welfare system are under pressure


What he wanted: The 2015 Tory manifesto promised that: ‘If an EU migrant’s child is living abroad, then they should receive no child benefit, no matter how long they have worked in the UK and no matter how much tax they have paid.’

What he got: Child benefit will continue to be paid, but at the same rate as in the child’s home country. For eastern European countries in particular, this will significantly cut the bill. However, some officials fear it will be a recipe for chaos – with Government IT systems struggling to cope with paying 28 different levels of child benefit.

Verdict: Better than the status quo but still amounts to the abandonment of a manifesto commitment.


What he wanted: ‘National parliaments to be able to work together to block unwanted European legislation.’

 What he got: A pledge that, if 55 per cent of national EU parliaments object to a piece of EU legislation within 12 weeks of it being tabled, the council presidency will hold a ‘comprehensive discussion’ and either amend the proposals or block them altogether.

Britain would need the support of at least 14 other states to make use of the red card. The UK could be easily out-numbered by the 19 members of the eurozone.

Verdict: Heavily spun as a victory by Number 10 but stops well short of the outright veto demanded by eurosceptics, including some Cabinet members.

David Cameron was given a vague promise that an unspecified number of non-euro states will be able to ‘indicate their reasoned opposition’ to a eurozone proposal



Since becoming Tory leader, David Cameron has pledged a series of radical changes to European powers over Britain, only to quietly drop them in the face of resistance. They include:

  • Charter of Fundamental Rights. In 2009 Mr Cameron promised a complete opt-out of the charter, which further extends human rights laws.
  • Social and employment laws. In 2010 Mr Cameron pledged to claw back powers from Brussels, but this was quietly dropped.
  • Treaty change. Promised ‘full-on treaty change’ as recently as 2014, but now hopes the moves will be added to a treaty at a later date.
  • Working time directive. In 2012 he promised to change the law which includes the contentious 48-hour maximum working week.
  • Common Agricultural Policy. Repeated calls for reform of farming subsidies, but no sign of any change yet.
  • Waste. In 2009 he promised to end the European parliament’s ‘absurd’ practice of meeting in Strasbourg as well as Brussels.

What he wanted: A mechanism to ensure that ‘Britain can’t be discriminated against because it’s not part of the euro, can’t pick up the bill for eurozone bailouts and can’t have imposed on it changes the eurozone want to make without our consent’.

What he got: Vague promise that an unspecified number of non-euro states will be able to ‘indicate their reasoned opposition’ to a eurozone proposal and that the EU’s ruling council will then discuss the issue. Britain will not have to pay for any future eurozone bailouts and, where emergency funds are used, they can be recovered – save for admin costs. There was also a pledge to boost competitiveness.

Verdict: France has been resisting the idea that Britain can interfere in the workings of the single currency. Unclear what will happen if no agreement can be reached. Brussels remains adamant that no state should be able to ‘veto the effective management of the banking union or the future integration of the euro area’.


What he wanted: The 2015 manifesto promised ‘a continued crackdown on ‘illegal working and sham marriages’.

What he got: The European Commission agreed to exclude from free movement rules ‘third country nationals who had no prior lawful residence in a member state before marrying a union citizen’. This is crucial in ending the racket of non-EU citizens who would not qualify for a UK visa getting round the rules by marrying somebody from another EU state, often in Eastern Europe, then moving here. Criminal gangs have been charging thousands to facilitate fake ceremonies.

Verdict: A win. Number 10 had suggested Europe was objecting to the crackdown. Home Secretary Theresa May fought hard to ensure it remained part of the package.

David Cameron wanted the 2015 manifesto to promise ‘a continued crackdown on ‘illegal working and sham marriages’


What he wanted: Exempt Britain from the commitment in the EU’s founding treaty to move toward ‘ever closer union’.

What he got: The EU said it was content to acknowledge ‘that the United Kingdom, in the light of the specific situation it has under the treaties, is not committed to further political integration into the European Union’.

There was also an acknowledgement that Britain does not have to join the euro – a symbolic gesture since the UK has zero intention of signing up to the crumbling one-size-fits-all currency union.

Verdict: A win – though eurosceptics will believe it when they see it. The change will not be written into the EU’s treaties until they are next reopened. No date has been set for this to happen.


What he wanted: The 2015 manifesto promised new powers to ‘stop terrorists and other serious foreign criminals who pose a threat to our society from using spurious human rights arguments to prevent deportation’.

What he got: EU rules which allow criminals and terror suspects to be turned away at the UK border will be strengthened significantly. In particular, EU nationals will be turned away even if they do not present an ‘imminent’ threat. Their ‘past conduct’ or so-called soft intelligence – police information which stops short of a conviction – will be sufficient to act.

Verdict: A win which followed months of hard bargaining by Mrs May with her European colleagues. Is the basis on which she declared herself largely happy with the PM’s draft deal last night – effectively ending hopes she will lead the out campaign.

David Cameron hails deal to keep Britain in the EU

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