Brexit: time to electrify this absurd charade

David Cameron kicked off his campaign to keep Britain in the European Union at a summit in Brussels last week.

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David Cameron: taking the begging bowl round Europe

Prime Minister David Cameron "effectively launched his campaign to keep Britain in the European Union" last week. After a summit in Brussels, he appeared to confirm that he would hold the referendum next year, having forged a deal in February, say Bruno Waterfield and Francis Elliott in The Times. Talks will begin in the New Year to hammer out a compromise over Cameron's four key reform areas: to increase competitiveness; protect the City; end "ever-closer" union; and to make EU workers wait four years to get in-work benefits.

On the last a 2015 manifesto pledge Cameron was forced into a "major concession", promising no discrimination on grounds of nationality. That means no UK citizen could claim in-work benefits for the same period after turning 18.

The freeze is unlikely to stem the tide of EU citizens arriving here to work, particularly now that the minimumwage is rising, says Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times. And it is immigration, even more than parliamentary sovereignty, that is the "neuralgic" issue for the British. Indeed, the only reason for this "peculiarly narrow" manifesto pledge was because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had warned Cameron repeatedly about the impossibility of breaching the EU principle of the freedom of movement.

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The renegotiation is beyond absurd, says Janet Daley in The Daily Telegraph. Cameron's proposals are "rhetorical waffle" and the EU itself is in such "chaos that it is in no position to think logically about its future".

Quite, says former Conservative Defence Secretary Liam Fox in The Sunday Times. Its "two great iconic integrationist projects", the euro and the Schengen agreement (which abolished internal borders), are "on the brink of failure". The first has created "dangerousfinancial instability"; the second an "uncontrollable migration crisis". The very fact that Cameron has had to "take the political begging bowl around European capitals in order to make the laws he believes are necessary... is the best possible demonstration of the problem". Our "laws should be made by those accountable to the British people".

An intervention now from Home Secretary Theresa May would "electrify" the campaign, says Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail. Freedom of movement is behind her utter failure to restrict immigration (nearly two million national insurance numbers have been issued to EU citizens in the past four years). She should spell out what Cameron must demand for Britain to regain control of its borders.

So far, she and other ministers have stayed silent, but it can't last, says Hugo Rifkind in The Times. With "big beasts" outside government (Fox and John Redwood on the Brexit side, and John Major and Michael Heseltine on the other) "growling like werewolves under a full moon", soon even those with red boxes will be "powerless against the urge to howl".

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.