David Cameron will make his ‘game-changer’ speech on immigration tomorrow in which he is expected to say that the UK will leave the EU if it does not secure reforms that allow the government to deny benefits to migrants. He will say:
‘If we cannot put our relationship with the EU on a better footing, then of course I rule nothing out.’
This is not the emergency brake or points-based system that the PM seemed to hint at previously and therefore unless there is more in the speech, some of his MPs may feel rather let down. Many were today saying that they expected it to be reasonably small beer, but others will be pleased at the conditionality Cameron is now attaching to Britain’s ongoing membership. This does suggest, though, that the Prime Minister is not keen to satisfy his backbenchers now with a pledge to secure a reform that European leaders cannot give him. In other words, Cameron won’t rule out leaving the EU if he doesn’t get what he wants, but he seems to be ruling out asking for things that he can’t get.
Cameron will want to get this speech over and done with so he can start talking about the economy again. He may find that his party lets him do that without too much fuss about a speech that isn’t quite as dramatic as some had hoped: Tory MPs are pretty keen not to cause too much trouble that helps Labour gain any foothold. But whether voters give him much credit for making another pledge when today’s net migration figures showed him failing to meet a previous promise is another matter.