EU Referendum

David Cameron is warned there are ‘no guarantees’ from MEPs as he continues a diplomatic push amid claims child benefit curbs in his EU deal have been watered down AGAIN

  • The PM vowed at the election to stop the payments being sent abroad
  • The curbs will be for anyone whose children live in another country 
  • Cameron will defend the deal at pre-summit back to back meetings today
  • Crucial summit begins Thursday and referendum could then start Friday

Martin Schulz said like any parliament it was impossible to pre-empt a vote but promised 'constructive' work on Britain's final agreement, which is expected to be concluded at an EU summit on Thursday.

Mr Cameron is deep in back to back meetings with senior MEPs and other Brussels officials today as he continues a diplomatic push to complete the deal.

But with the formal start of the referendum campaign apparently just day away, he is already facing claims the agreement has been watered down even further as the Czech Republic became the latest nation to demand child benefit curbs only apply to new migrants.

David Cameron met with European Parliament president Martin Schulz in Brussels today amid claims his deal on child benefit is being watered down

 Speaking after his meeting with Mr Cameron today, Mr Schulz said: 'I gave the Prime Minister a clear commitment that once an agreement is found in the (European) Council, once the legal text is on the table of the European Parliament, we will take immediately and start legislative process and try to be as fast as possible and as constructive as necessary.

'I am quite clear I can't give a guarantee for the outcome of future legislation nevertheless.

'It's understandable the Prime Minister asked the European Parliament to cooperate as intensively as possible, that was the assurance I gave the Prime Minister, that we will do the utmost to find a deal.'

 The European Parliament will not start work on the legislation for the deal until Britain has voted to stay in and Mr Schulz added: 'To be quite clear, no government can go to a Parliament and say this is our proposal, can you give a guarantee about the result?

'This is a democracy, it is not possible.'

It was made clear yesterday some of the most contentious aspects of Mr Cameron's expected agreement will not be debated and voted by MEPs until after Britain's referendum.

Mr Schulz insisted this was not a veto and added: 'I encourage British people to vote on the basis of the outcome of Thursday, to vote Yes.

Guy Verhofstadt, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament today suggested Mr Cameron should be given his deal on political integration 

Guy Verhofstadt, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament today suggested Mr Cameron should be given his deal on political integration

Elsewhere Conservative MP Peter Bone looked forward to the expected start of campaigning and implied cabinet ministers could be on the campaign trail from Friday night 

Elsewhere Conservative MP Peter Bone looked forward to the expected start of campaigning and implied cabinet ministers could be on the campaign trail from Friday night

'Then we start a legislative procedure which will clarify and help to solve the problems addressed by the frame which will be, I hope, accepted on Thursday.'


Ukip leader Nigel Farage, pictured in Brussels today, has already campaigned under the Grassroots Out banner Ukip leader Nigel Farage, pictured in Brussels today, has already campaigned under the Grassroots Out banner

A campaign bringing together Nigel Farage with senior Conservative and Labour politicians will bid to be the 'official' Leave group at the referendum it was confirmed today.

The Go Movement - a coalition of the Grassroots Out, Leave.EU, Global Britain and other campaign groups - has announced it will apply to the Electoral Commission.

Success would mean access to guaranteed TV coverage during the main referendum campaign and greater funding as a result.

The move comes amid continuing infighting and controversy on the Leave side as the different camps battled for supremacy.

The new grouping will bring Tories David Davis and Liam Fox and Labour's Kate Hoey under the same banner as Ukip leader Mr Farage.

Guy Verhofstadt, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a major European Parliament group, said after meeting Mr Cameron: 'If Britain doesn't want to be part of further political integration of EU, let's respect & recognise this fact in the treaties.'

But Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who has accused Mr Cameron of ducking a meeting with him and other MEPs, insisted: 'The real truth is that this deal is not worth the paper it's written on. It is subject to European Parliamentary approval and ultimately judgments of the European Court of Justice.

'I am not sure that this 'deal' is the kind of second-hand car that the British public will buy from the Prime Minister. There is no reason to trust him.

'This deal is no more than Cam's sham.'

The starting gun on the campaign looks set to be fired as soon as Friday in an historic Cabinet meeting in London scheduled for the conclusion of the EU summit in Brussels.

Czech Europe Minister Tomas Prouza today insisted his country did not want the deal to enable other countries to 'piggy back' on the British deal and would work to narrow the terms of the deal.

Mr Prouza told the Today programme: 'As I said, we want to help the UK deal with the pressure they are facing, but we are not willing to have the whole social system of Europe being changed by that.'

Mr Prouza said the Czech Republic believes that limits on EU migrants' access to in-work benefits, along with curbs on child benefit, would apply only to newcomers to the UK.

He said: 'I think we need to have the same arrangement as for the discussion on in-work benefits.

'The proposal is clear that the limits on the in-work benefits would apply only to the newcomers and this is a very UK-specific solution.

As well as his meeting with Mr Schulz, pictured, Mr Cameron attended other discussions with senior MEPs at the Parliament in Brussels today 


The meetings were delayed as the Prime Minister swept into the building 25 minutes late, pictured Mr Cameron had back to back meetings in Brussels

The meetings were delayed as the Prime Minister swept into the building 25 minutes late, pictured left, but he eventually got into his schedule of back to back talks, right

'So we need the very same guarantees also for the child benefits taxation that applies only to newcomers and it also applies only to those working in the UK.'

He added: 'It is in the proposals as we understand. Donald Tusk when he comes to Prague later today should be able to confirm this.'


Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, right, today said Britain should be leading in Europe not turning away.

As David Cameron looked to close his deal with other EU leaders, Mr Brown wrote in the Daily Mirror that staying In was best for the British people.

He said: 'The economic evidence about British jobs gained, British businesses created and British investment secured is absolutely sound.'

Mr Brown added: 'Europe matters to our livelihoods more than most think. And standing up for British jobs by championing our case in Europe is the patriotic thing to do.'

The former PM concluded: 'In contrast to the UKIP view of being British - that we are only at our best on our own and semi-detached - let us remind people of that more profoundly patriotic view.

'This is that we stand up for British people's needs and aspirations best not by choosing splendid isolation, but as a proud, outward-looking nation playing our part in the world, fighting our corner for Britain as a leader of Europe.'

Mr Tusk last night warned Mr Cameron's renegotiation was 'very fragile' and unless handled carefully could lead to the break-up of the union

Mr Tusk said it was a 'critical moment' as he told EU leaders to start listening to each other's concerns because 'what is broken cannot be mended' and the 'risk of break-up is very real'.

Mr Tusk is undertaking a whirlwind tour of EU capitals including Berlin, Paris and Athens to sell the package of reforms he drafted in response to Mr Cameron's demand for change.

And ahead of Mr Cameron's meetings today, Tory MEP Syed Kamall, chairman of EU reform campaign group Conservatives and Reformists, told the BBC: 'We want to make sure that the deal the British people vote on is actually the final deal and that the European parliament doesn't make any changes.

'That's one of the reasons that David Cameron is in Brussels today. He's talking to the big leaders of the parliamentary groups... to try and make sure he has support to get these changes through parliament.'

At a meeting in Brussels today, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will warn he will be allowed to restrict payment only to new arrivals.

The decision could encourage a flood of thousands more EU migrants to Britain ahead of the changes coming into law in the months after the referendum.

It represents another blow for Mr Cameron, who has already been told that he will only be able to reduce child benefit for EU migrants to rates based on income levels in their home countries – rather than scrapping the payments altogether.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Juncker said last night: 'The social welfare system is of course at stake... We have to approach this question of the social welfare system with a maximum of prudence.

'We have to be cautious about that because this is concerning Britain but it is also concerning the other member states.

'I do think that these social welfare benefits have to continue to be applied to those already in Britain. For the incoming workers, this has to be seen.'

Downing Street yesterday also admitted MEPs may have the power to change or block parts of the EU renegotiation deal – even after Britain has voted on it in the referendum. The Prime Minister had insisted the agreement set to be signed off by EU leaders on Friday will be 'legally binding and irreversible'.

But last night officials were forced to admit the European Parliament could alter parts of the package including the so-called emergency brake on migrant benefits and the plan to reduce child benefit payments.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage, pictured today in Brussels, has insisted he had been due to meet Mr Cameron at the European Parliament but that he was dropped from the schedule 

 Jean-Claude Juncker says deal offered to Britain is 'fair'

 The Prime Minister, pictured at his meeting last night with French president Francois Hollander, had vowed at the election to stop the payments to anyone whose children live in another country to stop the practice of it being sent abroad

 British Prime Minister David Cameron attended the Matthiae-Mahr Dinner in Hamburg, northern Germany, last week, pictured, to make his case for wider EU reform 

 Mr Cameron will be in Brussels today for talks with senior MEPs over the deal.

Yesterday, No 10 said Mr Cameron was 'looking for the European Parliament to make clear they will work with the UK to deliver on the solutions being discussed'.


Support for Britain's membership of the European Union is fading fast, a poll released last night found.

A ComRes poll for ITV News showed the In campaign had an eight-point lead, down from a 19-point lead in a similar survey last month.

Some 49 per cent of voters said they would vote to stay, compared with 41 per cent who would vote to leave.

The survey of 1,105 voters found control of borders was the main issue for people. Some 53 per cent said migration controls was one of their top issues, compared with 43 per cent citing sovereignty, and 38 per cent saying the economy.

Just 19 per cent were worried about Britain's global influence being diminished, and 12 per cent said they were concerned about the uncertainty leaving the EU would bring.

No 10 is growing increasingly alarmed by the shift in the polls. A ComRes survey at the weekend found 58 per cent of people believed the PM will fail to get a good deal from Brussels.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said of the deal: 'It's quite hard to see at this stage whether anyone will modify it or not. Clearly on elements of the emergency welfare brake we will be looking for all countries in the European Parliament to deliver on that following the choice of the British people.'

But the spokesman insisted that 'senior MEPs' are supportive of the PM's deal.Asked if the plans would be blocked after the referendum, she said: 'That is not what senior MEPs have suggested.'

The spokesman suggested MEPs would also come under pressure to toe the line from their own governments, who will be legally bound by the deal they agree with Mr Cameron.

Eurosceptic Tory MP Stewart Jackson last night said the admission confirmed that the package of reforms was 'worthless' as it could be altered in Brussels after British voters have backed it.

Tory MEPs have privately pleaded with colleagues in other parties to publicly commit ahead of the referendum not 'to unpick any deal'.

In a leaked document seen by the Daily Mail, representatives of the ECR group, which is predominantly made up of Tories, wrote: 'The European Parliament should vote to endorse the agreement as a whole before the referendum vote and commit itself unambiguously to implement it in full without qualification.'

However, European Parliament president Martin Schulz and the leaders of the three main groups in the parliament have so far resisted the demand.

  • An analysis of the deal by the Vote Leave campaign today concludes Mr Cameron's failure to get it enshrined in an EU treaty means it could be thrown out by the courts. The group says it will have 'the legal weight of an unsigned contract'.
 Brexit: David Cameron defends strong alliance with Germany

The starting gun will be fired on Friday: David Cameron prepares for an historic Cabinet meeting to start the referendum campaign - but Boris Johnson will NOT be invited

Within hours of completing his deal on Britain's new membership of the EU Prime Minister David Cameron will meet his cabinet in London to formally begin the referendum campaign.

Ahead of a blizzard of media appearances of his own, Mr Cameron last night conceded eurosceptic members of his Cabinet must also be allowed to make their own case.

But because London Mayor Boris Johnson is not a member of the Cabinet he will not be invited to the landmark meeting in Downing Street. He had always been free to make clear his views but has instead stayed firmly on the fence.

The historic meeting will receive Mr Cameron's deal - and he will then grant a rare suspension of 'collective responsibility' to give ministers the green light to oppose the agreement.

Mr Cameron's cabinet, pictured meeting for the first time after last year's election, is expected to meet on Friday to formally mark the deal with the EU and then suspend their collective responsibility to back the PM

 Following the Friday Cabinet, eurosceptic ministers - thought highly likely to include Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and Commons leader Chris Grayling and probably several others - may appear at Brexit events within hours.

Mr Duncan Smith is said to have told the Prime Minister it would be unacceptable to continue gagging Eurosceptic ministers while he was setting out the case for keeping Britain in Europe.

Several ministers were said to be ready to defy Mr Cameron and dare him to sack them. 'Iain made very clear both the strength of feeling about this, and the number of people feeling it,' a source told the Mail

Attorney General Jeremy Wright was also yesterday reported to be considering backing Brexit. Mr Wright was not available for comment and Eurosceptic sources said he was not known for having hardline views on Europe.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove is seen as a key figure as he is very close to Mr Cameron but is said to be persuaded of the case to leave the EU.

Former Tory Cabinet minister John Redwood last night appealed to Eurosceptic MPs not to be swayed by pressure from No 10. In an open letter he said: 'If you claimed to be a Eurosceptic to get selected and elected you now have to vote to leave.'


Iain Duncan Smith: 9/10 Out 

The work and pensions secretary and former Tory leader has long held deeply eurosceptic views.

It drove his brief party leadership and he would probably be the most high profile signing for the Out campaign. 

In October 2003, he said: 'I will fight with all my strength to defend the British people's right to govern themselves.

'Conservatives want to build a New Europe — not a single state with its own currency and constitution, but a Europe of sovereign, enterprising nations.' 


John Whittingdale: 9/10 Out 

Mr Whittingdale wrote to the BBC last year demanding the broadcaster stayed impartial during the referendum campaign.

He said the corporation had to have a 'very robust' system in place to deal with impartiality. 

In 2013 he warned: 'If it was a choice of the [EU] membership under the present terms or coming out, then I'd vote to come out.' 


Priti Patel: 9/10 Out

Ms Patel is the lowest ranked of those likely to back out but also one of the newest faces as she was first elected in 2010.

In June 2014, she said: 'The status quo of EU membership is simply not an option. The British public want less Europe and more Britain.

'The British public want our political leaders to say 'No' to the unaccountable, federalist European agenda which has led to the widespread failures of the European Union we face today.'


Michael Gove: 6/10 Out 

The Justice Secretary is said to be torn between his loyalty to the Prime Minister, a close friend, and his Eurosceptic conscience.

And last week a Downing Street insider admitted Mr Gove was 'definitely wobbling' and said his chances of joining the Out campaign have increased significantly since Mr Cameron unveiled his draft EU deal.

The PM and the Chancellor are said to be resigned to losing Mr Gove to the Out camp but hope he will play a limited role in the run-up to the referendum and do not believe he would choose to lead the Brexit campaign.

Theresa Villiers: 9/10 Out

Northern Ireland Secretary Ms Villiers may not be the highest profile member of the cabinet but she has long been eurosceptic and was thought one of those most likely to quit if Mr Cameron had not given freedom to campaign.

In 2011, after the Government handed a contract which could have safeguarded 3,000 UK jobs to a German firm: 'We are bound by European Union rules, which mean . . . we are not permitted to take into account the location of the factory in determining which bid is nominated. That is a consequence of our membership of the EU.'


Chris Grayling: 10/10 Out

Mr Grayling, who served as a minister in Mr Cameron's team since 2010, was the first minister to make plain he would campaign for out in a delicately worded Telegraph article that just stayed within the PM's rules.

He said last year: 'I've made no bones about the fact that I sit on the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party . . . If the British people decide to leave, then we leave.

'This is a strong country and we will prosper whatever the situation is. 


Boris Johnson: 6/10 Out 

The London mayor has famously flirted in and out of the Leave camp. He had appeared earlier this year to rule himself out of the Leave campaign but his strident attack on the PM's deal yesterday drew attention.

Last year, he said: 'There is every reason to think, if we got the right free trade deal, that we would flourish . . . I think the price of getting out is lower than it's ever been.' 


Jeremy Wright: 5/10 Out

The Attorney General is said to be '50/50' over which side to join and like Mr Gove he is torn between backing the PM and concerned about the increasing influence of the European courts, which the renegotiation will not touch. 

A minister said Mr Wright does not believe Mr Cameron went 'far enough' in his demands for reform. 

If he joined the Out campaign it would be humiliating for Mr Cameron because his job is to advise the Government on the legal implications of the deal. 


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