POLITICS

Iain Duncan Smith Says EU Leaders 'Privately' Share Call For Four-Year Immigrant Benefits Crackdown After Donald Tusk Letter

08/12/2015 11:27 GMT | Updated 08/12/2015 11:59 GMT
OLI SCARFF via Getty Images
British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith addresses delegates on the third day of the annual Conservative party conference in Manchester, north west England on October 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Iain Duncan Smith has said EU leaders privately agree with the UK Government's crackdown on migrant benefits despite the bloc's President claiming there is "substantial" opposition.

The Work and Pensions Secretary told journalists British "as usual" is publicly championing a four-year ban on social security for workers coming from member states, while counterparts "behind closed doors" agree.

The minister's comments follow Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, saying there was "presently no consensus" among EU members state over the centrepiece of David Cameron's renegotiations ahead of the UK's in-out referendum.

Mr Duncan Smith said the Prime Minister "remains resolved on this matter" and argued concern over immigration is felt as much in "Bavaria as it is in Birmingham".

donald tusk david cameron

European Council President Donald Tusk, right, and David Cameron

He said there were no alternatives – as Mr Tusk had suggested - other than adopting the UK's position.

He said: "When I talk to ministers in Germany and France, I have yet to come across one person I have spoken to about this who doesn't agree there is something fundamentally wrong about this system. People can arrive in a country and be eligible for benefits they have never contributed towards or been involved in.

"If you talk to the Dutch ministers, the Danish ministers, the Germans they are all in agreement. As usual it is the British that have to make the public case. But quietly, behind closed doors, everyone thinks it's an issue. It's in issue as much in Bavaria as it is in Birmingham."

He also said East European countries such as Lithuania fear a "drain of people" needed to boost their fledgling economies who are drawn west.

In a letter yesterday, Mr Tusk said the idea of allowing the UK to discriminate against non-UK citizens when it came to benefit payments was the "most delicate" of all Cameron's demands.

"While we see good prospects for agreeing on ways to fight abuses and possibly on some reforms related to the export of child benefits, there is presently no consensus on the request that people coming to Britain from the EU must live there and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing." he said.

"This is certainly an issue where we need to hear more from the British prime minister and an open debate among ourselves before proceeding further."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the letter showed Cameron's renegotiation was a "con job".

However Will Straw, the executive director of the Britain Stronger in Europe 'In' campaign said the letter showed progress was being made.

Letter by President Donald Tusk to the European Council on the issue of a UK in/out referendum