Angela Merkel forced David Cameron to shelve plans for an emergency brake on EU migration, according to former Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith.
The ex-Work and Pensions Secretary claimed today the Prime Minister was all set to call for a restriction in the numbers coming to the UK from Europe in a speech in November 2014.
But less than 24 hours before giving the address, the Germans threatened to attack any attempt to introduce an emergency brake – so the line was pulled.
A Downing Street source did not recognise the version of events put forward by Duncan Smith.
In an interview with The Sun, Brexit-backing Duncan Smith claimed Germany had a hidden role throughout Cameron’s EU renegotiation, and said: “It’s like they were sitting in a room, even when they were not there.”
“There was a spare chair for them - called the German Chair.
“They have had a de facto veto over everything.”
The specific claims about German interference focus on a speech Cameron was set to give on November 27, 2014.
The Prime Minister was preparing to set out what he hoped to achieve from any EU renegotiation ahead of a planned in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the organisation.
In the speech, Cameron announced that EU migrants would have to work in the UK for four years before claiming benefits, but Duncan Smith claimed the original plan was to call for a temporary halt to freedom of movement to Britain.
Duncan Smith told The Sun: “I saw the draft.
“I know that right up until the midnight hour, there was a strong line in there about restricting the flow of migrants from the European Union – an emergency break on overall migration.
“That was dropped, literally the night before.
“And it was dropped because the Germans said if that is in the speech, we will have to attack it.
“The whole thing was shown to them.
“The Germans said from the outset, you are not getting border control. Full stop.”
Duncan Smith went on to claim that the UK is now in a worse position in the EU as a result of Cameron’s renegotiation, which was concluded in February.
Cameron did manage to get a deal which means EU nationals coming to the UK would not be able to claim benefits for four years – but only if it can be shown that there is excessive pressure on public services.
Responding to Duncan Smith’s claims, a Number 10 source said: "The Prime Minister made clear at the time that the government had looked at an emergency brake but he decided it was not the most effective way forward. That is why he decided to impose restrictions on benefits instead to end the something for nothing culture."
In a speech at Vote Leave's HQ in Westminster this morning, Duncan Smith made what he claimed was the "social justice" case for leaving the EU.
The former Tory leader said the influx of migrant workers was undercutting the British labour market, and cited the construction of 2012 Olympic Stadium in east London as an example.
He said: "The construction of the Olympic Park was a powerful illustration of the way in which immigrants undercut UK workers through their willingness to endure family-unfriendly living conditions.
"Visiting job centres in East London at the time I met both skilled and unskilled workers who struggled to get work on the site.
"When I asked why they said that people from Eastern Europe, often living in bedsits, without UK housing and family costs, hugely underbid them for their work.
"Since then those stories have been borne out by the facts. Despite the all the statements about the Olympic Park helping British workers, we now know that nearly half of all the jobs on the site went to foreign nationals."
He also claimed that the rate of immigration meant the UK needs "to build around 240 houses every day for the next 20 years just to be able to cope with increased demand from future migration.
"Of course there are a number of issues in the difficulty to get housing in the UK but the impact of uncontrolled immigration make it a major factor in the demand for housing," said Duncan Smith.
Labour, who are campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU, hit back at Duncan Smith's claim he is calling for Brexit for reasons of "social justice".
Shadow Minister Jonathan Ashworth said: “Working people will take Iain Duncan Smith’s warnings about social injustice with a large pinch of salt.
"After all, this is the Tory minister behind the Bedroom Tax and the man who opposed the introduction of the minimum wage and once warned that increased workers’ rights through the European Union would lead to ‘turmoil on the streets’.
“We should take no lectures from IDS when it comes to the pressures facing schools and hospitals. It is his Tory Government that is putting at risk the public services we rely on – under the Tories schools are facing budget cuts, over 3.5 million people are on the English waiting list and it has got harder to see a GP. And let’s also remember that leaving the EU would mean less money for local schools and hospitals.
Duncan Smith's intervention comes as the EU Referendum campaign gets into full swing.
Yesterday, Cameron suggested peace in Europe was "at risk" if the UK left the EU, a claim which was strongly dismissed by Brexit-backing Boris Johnson.