George Osborne’s national living wage will hand a £3,000 a year pay boost to EU migrants and fatally undermine Tory plans to curb European immigration, new figures have suggested.
The Vote Leave campaign declared that the pay rise would act as a further ‘pull factor’ that dwarfed any attempt by David Cameron to restrict tax credits and other welfare for arrivals from the Continent.
An analysis by the anti-Brussels group reveals that the Chancellor’s minimum wage hike to £9 an hour would increase the take-home income of single-earner EU migrants by £57.99 per week or £3,015.48 a year by 2020.
And if the Prime Minister fails in his attempt to impose a four-year ban on EU workers claiming tax credits, the figure will be even higher - £134.23 per week or £6,979.96 a year by 2020.
The claims came as new official statistics showed that the number of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in Britain has topped 200,000 for the first time.
Critics have already attacked Government figures on EU migrants claiming welfare in the UK, but the new Vote Leave analysis rams home the point that Poles, Romanians and others are coming to Britain not for benefits but for work, often low-paid work.
Mr Cameron has already come under fire from Tory MPs for appearing to water down his plans to curb welfare for incoming workers.
On Wednesday, the PM paved the way for a retreat after warnings that his four-year ban idea could be illegal or be blocked by any of the 27 other EU states, not least Eastern Europeans who benefit from the huge levels of migration to the UK.
Vote Leave’s Paul Stephenson said: “The living wage is a great thing for many workers in the UK but it looks like George Osborne did not consider what impact it would have on David Cameron’s plans to restrict EU immigration before he announced it.
“People are worried that high levels of immigration from Europe are putting our NHS, schools and housing supply under pressure. David Cameron wants to change that and make the UK less attractive to migrants by restricting the benefits they can claim here.
“But George Osborne’s living wage will completely undercut David Cameron’s EU negotiation. It means that the UK will be just as attractive to many migrants as it is now.
“If Mr Cameron fails to achieve EU benefit restrictions, the situation will get even worse. It is clear that the only way we can get back control over immigration is if we Vote Leave in the upcoming referendum.”
The statistics are projections from the same statistics cited by Mr Cameron as evidence for the need for his welfare reforms for non-British workers. The Vote Leave analysis builds on the methodology used by a 2014 paper on free movement by think tank Open Europe.
In November 2014, Mr Cameron said that “if you reduce the massive cash incentive for people to come from Europe to our country, they are less likely to come. I think that’s absolutely clear from all the work done by the analysts and the experts and Open Europe and everybody else.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage today stepped up his attacks on Mr Cameron's EU negotation package.
The overall European Union immigrant workforce reached 2.1 million for the first time, up 300,000 compared with a year ago, the Office for National Statistics said.
Romanians and Bulgarians - who gained full access to the British job market on January 1 last year – went up by 219,000, a 30,000 increase year-on-year, or 16 per cent, by birth rather than nationality.