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EU Referendum

Opinion: David Cameron’s European Union deal is rubbish

The Prime Minister wants us to believe he’s cutting immigration but he’s not

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at 10 Downing Street on February 3
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at 10 Downing Street on February 3


David Cameron has presented his European Union deal as a triumph.

He’s secured a draft agreement with European Council president Donald Tusk, following months of talks.

All he has to do now is to get the leaders of other EU nations to sign up.

Mr Cameron’s goal is to convince the nation that he’s managed to secure a new agreement which dramatically improves the terms of the UK’s membership of the European Union.

Then he can ask us to vote in favour of staying in the EU, when a referendum takes place – possibly on June 23.

The problem, however, is that his agreement is a massive letdown.

Mr Cameron wanted to convince people who oppose immigration from other parts of Europe – or at least think it’s too high – that he’d done something about it.

What he’s agreed is a proposal that immigrants from other parts of Europe won’t be able to claim benefits such as tax credits in full, until they have been in the UK and working for at least four years.

But how is he going to convince people that this will cut immigration?

There may be people who say that immigrants come here to claim benefits.

But most of us understand that Poles and Hungarians come over here to work. Opponents of EU immigration generally argue that people from poorer EU nations are undercutting wages by agreeing to work for lower salaries than British workers would accept.

Mr Cameron’s argument is that “in-work benefits” like tax credits are an added incentive to work in the UK, on top of higher wages than people can get at home. If you take that away, you won’t end immigration totally but you will reduce it, apparently.

It’s a convoluted argument which doesn’t convince. How many of us thought “in-work benefits” was the biggest problem with the EU, before Mr Cameron tried to make it an issue?

The European Union makes it easier for us to trade with the rest of Europe. And by allowing workers to move around it helps British employers and the British economy.

It also helps British workers who want to work overseas.

A number of studies have found that EU migration does indeed lead to a small fall in wages for British workers who are already low paid – even though it leads to higher average wages for workers in general.

In other words, Britain generally gets richer, because immigrants help the economy, but some of the least wealthy workers in our country don’t share in the benefit.

Supporters of the EU need to win the argument about immigration by being honest with people. As long as we are members, EU migrants will come here.

And they should explain how they intend to use the economic benefits of migration to help the least wealthy British people and communities.

But they won’t win any hearts and minds by pretending they’re cutting migration when they really aren’t.

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/opinion-david-camerons-european-union-10849498

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