‘David Cameron’s benefits crackdown for migrants is the window dressing Labour and Ukip say it is. Most aren’t here for handouts. They are fleeing broken eurozone economies for our greener pastures — and bust a gut to find work.

The PM cannot meaningfully tackle soaring immigration without winning back from the EU our power to limit their numbers, thus easing pressure on schools and hospitals. But he refuses even to ask.

Instead all he can do is make noise and hope it convinces a few wavering Ukippers to vote Tory. We doubt it will.’

In a carefully crafted effort to sound tough, David Cameron announces a crackdown on immigration that will ‘put Britain first’ and ensure that this country is no longer seen as a ‘soft touch’. If only the reality lived up to the rhetoric…The fact is that, taken together, all the restrictions on out-of-work benefits for migrants announced this year will save taxpayers only £500million. And that’s over a five-year period…

If only he admitted that EU law prevents him from restricting in-work benefits, he could turn his impotence to advantage. After all, he leads the only party offering a realistic hope of a referendum on our membership of the Brussels club. If he relies instead on posturing to lure Tory defectors back from Ukip, his party could live to regret it.’

‘By putting the needs of British people first his proposal will anger all those Eurocrats who are desperate to see the EU turned into a superstate. It is vital that he stays the course and does not allow the EU to bully him into watering down or abandoning these proposals.

If the Prime Minister is to have any success in claiming back powers from the EU he needs to be strong and stand up to Brussels. The sooner he does so the better.’

‘This isn’t a matter of opinion. This is European law. It means that any legislation that a UK government brings in to change benefits entitlement must apply equally to UK citizens, or face the fiercest opposition in the European courts. Put simply, the European Union in its current form will not allow the British Government to do the things that the Prime Minister says he wants to do to European migrants’ claims, without also applying those changes to his own people.’

“Net migration from the EU now is roughly half the total. We have to renegotiate with the European Union about the whole issue of freedom of movement for low-skilled workers.”

  • The Migration Advisory Committee has found that while yesterday’s proposals would save £100 million a year:

‘…based on annual tax credit expenditure of £30billion, ‘around £5billion is claimed by non-UK nationals’. The MAC, headed by Sir David Metcalf, also found migrant workers were more likely to be claiming tax credits. They were paid to 6.7 per cent of all non-UK nationals of working age, compared to six per cent of Britons. Mr Cameron’s announcement side-stepped the issue of in-work benefits entirely.’

‘The European Commission signalled that the Prime Minister’s plans for extra curbs on welfare claims by migrants could be in breach of EU law. In a chilling warning to Downing Street, they vowed to “investigate” his remarks to find out whether the blitz on benefits was incompatible with EU obligations to treat all citizens equally.’

  • The Times‘ cartoonist Peter Brookes illustrates Cameron thus:
Cameron Migrant

All of which combines to illustrate that the whole topic of immigration is as much of a poisonous mire as it ever was. Public demand, pressure from the newspapers and unambiguous poll figures all require that he produces a convincing solution to the question. The simple fact that Brussels controls the vast majority of our border policy – and, by extension, has a say over how we manage our own welfare system when it applies to migrants – makes a solution difficult to find and almost impossible to make convincing.

Failing to speak out and act would be electorally suicidal. But making bold statements that don’t match up to reality is just as deadly – the people were sceptical of the Government’s ability to fulfil its net migration pledge, but they gave it a go only to find that their scepticism was justified. Making promises you cannot keep is a foolish game.

To fully and freely control our borders requires one thing: leaving the EU. As today’s Daily Mail leader argues, the Prime Minister can only win points on immigration if he converts public anger about immigration into support for his in/out referendum policy – any other route leads to unfulfilled promises, and the electorate are not going to forgive him again. Instead of continuing to wade through this endless mire, he should drain it.