David Cameron’s New Year interview on Marr was dominated not by the economy but by Europe. In a sign of what the promise of a speech setting out his European strategy has started, Cameron was repeatedly asked about what powers he would like back.
He didn’t give much away, repeatedly telling Andrew Marr he would have to wait for the speech later this month. But two interesting things did emerge. First, Cameron indicated that he wanted to toughen up the way that the free movement of people is applied. I presume this means that only those with work or a clear means of support could come here; Nick Boles and others have long argued that this is possible under the existing treaties. Second, Cameron indicated that the new terms-or-out referendum would take place within five years.
On the child benefit changes coming in today, Cameron stuck to the script. There’s still no good answer to the two-earner question: why a household with two people on £49k should keep their child benefit while a household with one person working on £60k should lose theirs. But Cameron struck a more emollient tone, emphasising that he accepts that those on £60k are not the ‘rich’. Cameron also took a less confrontational line on the welfare up-rating being limited to 1pc, saying ‘I don’t like taking money from anybody.
Strikingly when asked about Britain’s AAA credit rating, Cameron emphasised that the important thing was not the rating itself but how much it cost this country to borrow. This suggests that Downing Street now accepts that there’s a real chance that the AAA rating will go this year.