back to top

Iain Duncan Smith Seems Confused About How EU Vetoes Work

Is the former work and pensions secretary's story about Germany vetoing Cameron's immigration plan as "sensational" as The Sun claims?

Posted on
Scott Barbour / Getty Images

On Tuesday, The Sun splashed with the "sensational claim" by the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith that German chancellor Angela Merkel had sabotaged David Cameron's efforts to renegotiate Britain's status in the European Union by vetoing a measure to restrict immigration one day before the prime minister was set to announce it.

Tuesday's Sun front page: Cam's in her hans - PM's surrender to Germany #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

The same line has been picked up by other news outlets.

There's just one problem though – the story, which was first reported in 2014, mischaracterises how EU negotiations work.

Freedom of movement is "non-negotiable" for nearly every member state, not just Germany.

One senior French government official told BuzzFeed News that accepting freedom of movement was – and would remain in any post-Brexit negotiation – a red line.

They said that there was broad consensus on this issue and others, despite the impression that one country may have been more vocal than others.

For example, French president François Hollande may have been at the front of the line in opposing Cameron’s request to carve out special protections for the City, but the French position was supported behind the scenes by Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Luxembourg. On freedom of movement, Merkel took the lead.

Many other member states were also against changes to EU freedom of movement rules. EU is more than its biggest member state.

Duncan Smith also seems to be suggesting that Germany had special veto powers over Cameron. In reality, all member states had veto powers, and the deal negotiated by the prime minister required agreement among all EU nations.

Those who followed February's final negotiations will recall that the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia were all against proposals to ban child benefits being sent abroad. The compromise, which made its way into the final agreement, was instead the introduction of index payments to the living standards of where the child receiving the benefits lives.