Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe


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The Independent Online

When David Cameron issued his long shopping list of demands to curb EU migration last month, there was some scepticism about whether he would make much progress in delivering it.

Winning EU approval for EU migrants to wait for four years before qualifying for child benefit, tax credits and social housing seemed an ambitious goal.

However, there are now signs that at least one of Mr Cameron’s proposals is being taken seriously by the European Commission – that child benefit and tax credits should not be paid to EU migrants whose children do not live in Britain.

Probably after a prod from Germany’s Angela Merkel, Jean-Claude Juncker, the new Commission President, is looking at whether EU governments should be allowed to withhold such payments.  Mr Cameron has been described as the German Chancellor’s “naughty nephew”. But it seems she wants to give her fellow conservative a helping hand in the run-up to next May’s general election.

In his speech, the Prime Minister was careful not to demand a cap on EU migrants. He did not ask for a special deal for Britain, but for reforms to benefit the EU as a whole. This has gone down well in Brussels and such an approach might just be starting to pay dividends.

Mr Cameron often annoys his EU counterparts by pandering to his Eurosceptic backbenchers.  But last month’s more conciliatory approach could be good for Britain. If he remains in power, he could be in a strong position to trumpet a new EU deal for the UK and  recommend an “in” vote in the referendum.