Poland’s deputy foreign minister has warned David Cameron that any change to EU rules regarding migrants would represent “an absolute red line” for the Warsaw government, unless he applies the measures to Britons as well.
Speaking to Newsnight on Monday, Rafal Trzaskowski, Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister with responsibility for European Affairs, reacted to Cameron’s recent promise to alter the benefits rules for EU migrants, saying there can be “no discrimination on grounds of nationality”.
Last week, Cameron promised to block European Union migrants from claiming welfare for the first four years after they arrive in Britain, setting out red lines for remaining part of the European Union.
Trzaskowski said: “If one wants to get away with all the benefits that are enshrined in the regulation of EU and treat immigrants from EU differently, and for example only pay benefits after four years of their stay in Britain or extradite people who can’t find work, that would be against all the existing laws of the EU and obviously that would be a red line for us.”
He added: “The Polish government is quite ready to talk about abuses of existing systems, sham marriages, extraditing criminals and so forth. But to be truthful this is not the problem - it is marginal. When it comes to changing the rules in the EU, when it comes to social support and so forth, when it comes to undermining the existing laws, obviously we are going to react quite strongly and we are going to be against.
"But the most important thing is that David Cameron wants to talk about it and doesn’t want to change policies unilaterally.
“This is an absolute red line, that there is no discrimination on grounds of nationality. If Britain were to change its policy, for example, into contributory system in which everyone has to pay in to get some money from the system we then could talk about changes if they were absolutely non-discriminatory.”
In the speech, Cameron gave his strongest hint yet that if planned re-negotiation of Britain's relationship with the EU fails he would consider arguing in favour of exit. "I rule nothing out," he said. "The British people will not understand, and frankly i will not understand, if a sensible way through can not be found."
In a message for other EU leaders, as well as British voters, Cameron said the UK's concerns about immigration "are not outlandish or unreasonable". He added: "We deserve to be heard and we must be heard."
However, Cameron's proposals may be hard to enact as the European Parliament's President Martin Schulz has warned that they would need the approval of all the rest of the European Union's member states.
"Let's be clear," he told the Huffington Post UK. "If they [Cameron's proposals] are not in the interests of all 28 member states, we will not get it [any re-negotiation]."
Schulz said that the UK was not part of the Schengen Group [26 European member states without border control] or in the euro, and the rest of the member states would only look at any new proposals for change once they were concrete.
"He says ‘our relationship with the European Union’, well, this is a relationship with yourself. The UK is a member of the EU. I don’t negotiate about my relationship with myself, it’s a little bit strange."
Earlier on Monday, Nick Clegg ripped into the Tories' stance towards Europe after it emerged that more migrants are actually going to Germany than Britain.