UK

David Cameron To Set Out 'Red Lines' On EU Immigration, including Four-Year Benefit Block

28/11/2014 08:19 GMT | Updated 28/11/2014 08:59 GMT

David Cameron will promise to block European Union migrants from claiming welfare for the first four years after they arrive in Britain as he sets out his red lines for remaining part of the group today.

The Prime Minister will insist he rules "nothing out" if British demands for change fall on deaf ears and warn that welfare reforms will be an "absolute requirement" in the renegotiation that would be held ahead of his planned referendum on EU membership.

Unemployed Europeans heading to Britain to find work will have six months to find a job or they will be kicked out, he will say in a keynote speech on immigration.

david cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron will set out his red lines on immigration

Those with jobs will only receive in-work benefits, such as tax credits, and social housing once they have been in the UK for four years.

No child benefits or tax credits for children living elsewhere in Europe will be paid out, regardless of how long an EU migrant has paid into UK coffers under the plans.

Cameron will be keen to regain the agenda after embarrassing official figures showed net migration to Britain is higher than it was when the coalition Government came to power.

The Prime Minister will insist the package of measures he is unveiling will mean Britain has the toughest welfare system for EU migrants anywhere in Europe.

He will say: "People have understandably become frustrated. It boils down to one word: control.

"People want Government to have control over the numbers of people coming here and the circumstances in which they come, both from around the world and from within the European Union. And yet in recent years, it has become clear that successive Governments have lacked control. People want grip.

"I get that.They don't want limitless immigration and they don't want no immigration. They want controlled immigration. And they are right.

"Britain supports the principle of freedom of movement of workers. Accepting the principle of free movement of workers is a key to being part of the single market.

"So we do not want to destroy that principle or turn it on its head. But freedom of movement has never been an unqualified right, and we now need to allow it to operate on a more sustainable basis in the light of the experience of recent years.

"My objective is simple: to make our immigration system fairer and reduce the current exceptionally high level of migration from within the EU into the UK.

"We intend to cut migration from within Europe by dealing with abuse; restricting the ability of migrants to stay here without a job; and reducing the incentives for lower paid, lower skilled workers to come here in the first place.

"We want to create the toughest system in the EU for dealing with abuse of free movement. We want EU jobseekers to have a job offer before they come here and to stop UK taxpayers having to support them if they don't ... EU jobseekers who don't pay in will no longer get anything out. And those who do come will no longer be able to stay if they can't find work.

"The British people need to know that changes to welfare to cut EU migration will be an absolute requirement in the renegotiation.

"I say to our European partners, we have real concerns. Our concerns are not outlandish or unreasonable. We deserve to be heard, and we must be heard.

"Here is an issue which matters to the British people, and to our future in the European Union. The British people will not understand - frankly I will not understand - if a sensible way through cannot be found, which will help settle this country's place in the EU once and for all.

"And to the British people I say this. If you elect me as Prime Minister in May, I will negotiate to reform the European Union, and Britain's relationship with it. This issue of free movement will be a key part of that negotiation.

"If I succeed, I will, as I have said, campaign to keep this country in a reformed EU. If our concerns fall on deaf ears and we cannot put our relationship with the EU on a better footing, then of course I rule nothing out. But I am confident that, with goodwill and understanding, we can and will succeed."

The plans also include abolishing the system that allows EU migrants to bring family members from outside the grouping without any restrictions, tougher re-entry bans for rough sleepers, beggars and fraudsters and stronger measures for deporting EU criminals.

Nationals of new member states will not be allowed to work in Britain until their economies have risen to a point more in line with other members.

It comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed there was a net flow of 260,000 migrants to the UK in the year to June, up from 182,000 in the previous 12 months.

The figure is 16,000 higher than it was in the year to June 2010 and leaves the Government just six months to deliver its pledge to slash net migration to the tens of thousands.

Some 583,000 people moved to the UK in the year ending in June, statisticians said, a "statistically significant increase" from 502,000 in the previous 12 months. The rise was driven by increases from the EU, which was up 45,000, and outside the EU, which was up 30,000.

Another "statistically significant increase" was recorded in Romanian and Bulgarian citizens arriving in the UK, rising to 32,000 from 18,000 the previous year.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Immigration is important to Britain - that's why it needs to be controlled and managed so that the system is fair. But David Cameron's 'no ifs, no buts' immigration target has completely failed. Four and a half years into his Government, his promises on an immigration target are in tatters.

"Rather than ramping up the rhetoric, David Cameron must now set out sensible, practical plans. Labour has already announced plans to stop recruitment agencies and employers exploiting immigration to undercut wages and jobs, longer waiting periods for out of work benefits, reform so that in-work benefits aren't available until someone has contributed and action to stop child benefit being sent abroad, so the system is more fair. In place of broken promises we need sensible plans."

Tory former minister Sir Gerald Howarth said he welcomed the PM's plan "in so far as it goes" but added: "We need action this day and our view is that we need to restore to the UK Parliament, immediately, control over our borders and if the Liberals don't like it then let's go to the country".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "In so far as it goes these are good measures. But, of course, if the objective is to cut the numbers, will tackling some of the pull factors as he is proposing to do with the benefits system - assuming he can negotiate that with our EU partners - will that be sufficient?"

Sir Gerald said the people wanted action now, rather than having to wait for a Conservative majority government.

"This is the number one issue in the country, immigration, and many of my colleagues feel very concerned about this, they want something now," he said.

"We believe that it's not acceptable for our European partners to tell us how to control our borders."

Sir Gerald said the Prime Minister had to be prepared to leave if the UK could not get what it wanted from the EU.

"That is the logical corollary," he said. "This is such an important issue, if we don't get what we want then what is the point in staying in a club where we are effectively a prisoner, where we are unable to do that which the British people want us to do?"