Fri Nov 13th, 2015 at 03:36:03 PM EST
This week, David Cameron sent a letter to Donald Tusk, outlining his proposals for changes that he seeks in the EU and in the UK's relationship with it.
For years, Cameron's posturing has been a running joke in Europe. It was purely for internal consumption within the UK political scene, and completely nonsensical when seen from the continent. But now, with the EU seriously weakened on several fronts, it could be a catalyst for intensifying the unravelling of Europe.
In all four chapters : Economic governance, deregulation, sovereignty, and immigration: Cameron's proposals suck, but it is generally agreed that the EU will cave on the first three, because they are in line with the general consensus of letting the EU go to hell, little by little, in the proverbial handbasket.
The immigration question is the sticking point. So what's it about?
The fact is that the UK has become an immigration magnet for EU citizens, in particular since 2008. Net migration is currently of the order of 300 000 per year.
One aspect of this is that, having its own currency and a non-insane central bank, it was able to attenuate the economic downturn suffered by the Eurozone. But more importantly, the UK mercantilist model relies on low wages, fullish employment, and massive government subsidies (housing, tax credits, family benefits) to allow working people to actually survive on starvation wages.
So the proposed reform boils down to this : the UK wishes to establish national preference for these benefits. UK employers, who are the real beneficiaries of the subsidies to the working poor, would still be able to hire foreigners, but would probably have to build sheds to house them in.
This, on balance, is probably too much for the other EU countries to stomach. An end to free movement of labour, i.e. people, within the EU would be a hard sell. Any remaining advantages of the supranational organisation would concern mostly corporations and the elites.