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10 November 2015

What did David Cameron say about Europe, and why does it matter?

The Prime Minister laid out four measures to control migration – and suggested further reforms are needed.

By New Statesman

David Cameron’s speech this morning focused on Britain’s place in the EU, outlining four areas where he believes the country needs to change its policy specifically with regards to incoming migrants.

The first two – stopping EU migrants getting benefits while looking for work and introducing a measure which means those who spend six months looking for work lose their right to stay – have already been instituted.

Two further measures would involve stopping EU migrants claiming benefits until they have paid taxes for four years, and stop the UK paying child benefit to parents whose children are not resident in the country.

These proposals, he says, are reasonable, although the Prime Minister acknowledged they will be hard to put into practice. Cameron stressed Britain’s place in the EU, saying that while the country benefits from membership, it also gives back. He claims that if Britain’s requests are met, he will campaign against the “Brexit”, but also emphasised Britain’s global standing, as the Guardian reported:

“I am not saying for one moment that Britain couldn’t survive outside the European Union.

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“Of course we could.

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“We are a great country.

“The fifth largest economy in the world.

“The fastest growing economy in the G7 last year.

“The biggest destination for FDI in the EU.

“Our capital city a global icon.

“The world, literally, speaks our language.”

Three further reforms are proposed to ensure Britain’s economic place in the EU remains stable and flexible, including making sure there is “fairness between euro and non-euro countries” and protecting the interests of businesses. The central issue of Cameron’s speech today, however, remains migration – in noted contrast to his earlier Bloomberg Speech which focused on “security prosperity”. 

By making immigration central to Britain’s relationship to Europe, the speech both reclaims ground which some feared may be taken by Ukip pre-election, and acknowledges how central migration has become to the Brexit debate.

Many questions, however, were left unanswered, including how many fewer EU migrants Cameron would like to see coming to Britain, and what sort of status the country would have if it did leave the union.

Meanwhile, in the European press…