GO TO EUROPE and bring back enough reclaimed powers so the UK will stay as a grumpy but committed member of the club.
That was pretty much David Cameron’s brief as he continued an EU-wide charm offensive ahead of a summer ‘Brexit’ vote.
That was the idea, but it’s fair to say that his continental excursion hasn’t quite gone to plan.
The only question now is whether it will make any difference when the UK votes on whether it should stay or go.
It’s not the easiest time to be asking the EU for things. The bloc is still reeling from the economic crash and now also has the biggest migration crisis since World War II to cope with.
Two issues which, not coincidentally, are exactly why so many Britons are so keen to leave in the first place.
So what’s on the table from Europe?
EU president Donald Tusk unveiled the proposals yesterday, here’s the jist of what’s contained in them.
Most of the points are watered down versions of what the Prime Minister wanted.
On migrants and benefits
- Britain will be given an ‘emergency brake’ on benefit payments to migrants coming to the UK. The plan will be ‘graduated’ though, so won’t be the complete halt the Prime Minister wanted.
- Cameron wanted to be able to stop EU migrants in the UK from sending money back to their children abroad. He didn’t get this, but the amount the migrants can send back will be reduced.
- The UK will get increased powers to stop people from entering the country if they are suspected of being involved in terrorism.
Sovereign control and the economy
- The Red Card system. The UK will be able to veto certain EU laws, but only if it gets the support of other EU governments.
- The UK will also be assured that they will not be financially supporting the eurozone economy.
Cameron has accepted that the proposals themselves with not stop the level of legal migration into the UK from Europe.
He said that the plans showed “real progress” and made it likely that he would campaign to stay in the European Union when the referendum comes around.
Cameron had said that he would not support the UK staying in Europe if he didn’t get a deal he was satisfied with.
The position of his cabinet colleagues will also come under increased focus as the referendum nears. Some are known eurosceptics but may be unwilling to resign their posts to campaign for a British exit.
The Prime Minister was today savaged on the front pages of the UK’s national press.
The Daily Mail branded the deal ‘The Great Delusion!’ while The Sun pictured Cameron in a Dad’s Army pose with the headline ‘Who do you think you are kidding Mr Cameron?’
Cameron has not given a definite date for the referendum yet but, asked about the rumoured date of 23 June, said that the date would not be too soon after regional elections planned for 5 May.
The first ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have requested that the referendum not to be held in June because of these votes.
Cameron had a tough time at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons today.
And outside the chamber he also faced criticism from leading eurosceptic MPs including John Redwood and Bill Cash.
London mayor Boris Johnson, for the most part a political ally, also gave a rather lukewarm response to the plans.
“We’ve got a lot more to do on this,” Johnson told Sky News.
The prime minister is making the best of a bad job. Let’s wait and see when this whole thing is agreed and try and see what it really means. Every bit of it.