David Cameron changes tactics over immigration

David Cameron Image copyright Reuters

Control. Control of who comes here. Control of what benefits they receive.

That's what David Cameron said the people were demanding on the morning after that broken immigration promise.

What was striking about his speech though, was that it proposed no new direct controls on immigration at all.

In the long weeks of agonising that preceded today, there had been a lot of talk about an emergency brake on EU migration or a cap on numbers. But they were ideas that never saw the light of day.

The reason why is revealing: they got an icy reception in capitals around Europe, where the idea of curbing benefits was greeted much more warmly.

Ambassadors and diplomats were invited to the Foreign Office today to watch the speech and be briefed on what it really meant.

A reminder that none of the prime minister's ideas is possible, without the agreement of the EU after a lengthy negotiation. Nothing, in other words, can change for a long time.

David Cameron tried to reassure his own party though by warning Europe that if he didn't get his way, nothing was ruled out.

A hint, at most, that he might one day advocate leaving the EU. Such a small hint though, that this speech was much more warmly greeted by relieved pro-Europeans than frustrated hard-line sceptics.

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