David Cameron’s two problems: benefits and Poland

From his speech and question session on today’s draft EU deal, it’s clear that David Cameron plans to spend the next two weeks promoting his negotiation success, rather than focusing on improving it. He naturally needs to persuade voters – and his colleagues – that this is a good deal that will make a big difference to Britain’s relationship with Europe. But as the press questions following the speech showed, this is going to be extremely difficult.

The Prime Minister was insistent that he had secured a good deal on in-work benefits for EU migrants, saying ‘what I’ve got is basically something I’ve asked for’. He was then asked repeatedly about the actual disparity between what he asked for, which was originally a four-year ban on benefits for migrants, and what he has been given, which is a phased introduction of benefits for those migrants over a four year period. This is what he said when asked by the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope when the first payment to to an EU worker would be made:

‘In terms of the four-year scheme, the details aren’t set out, we’re going to be negotiating those details, there are many areas of this document where you can see, right, we’ve got a mechanism to make sure that we can raise issues about the eurozone we’re concerned about, but we need the detail worked out. We’ve got the four year proposal on migrants, we need to make sure we get the detail right on any, er, phasing. We’ve got the outline in many areas, but more detail, more work is needed and that’s what the next couple of weeks are about.’

Here are the details that haven’t yet been set out:

‘On a proposal from the Commission having examined the notification, the Council could, by means of an implementing act, authorise the Member State concerned to restrict access to in-work welfare benefits to the extent necessary. The implementing act would authorise the Member State to limit the access of Union workers newly entering its labour market to in-work benefits for a total period of up to four years from the commencement of employment. The limitation should be graduated, from an initial complete exclusion but gradually increasing access to such benefits to take account of the growing connection of the worker with the labour market of the host Member State. The Council implementing act would have a limited duration and apply to EU workers newly entering its labour market during a period of [X] years, extendable for two successive periods of [Y] years and [Z] years.’

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