David Cameron has announced that migrants from EU countries will be prevented from claiming out-of-work benefits for three months after arriving. Jobseeker’s allowance will also be limited to six months for foreign nationals. It is a package that is aimed at making Britain a less attractive country for would-be benefit claimers, focusing on the tens of thousands of Bulgarians and Romanians who may arrive in Britain at the beginning of next year. So by doing this, will Britain be seen as the ‘nasty country’ of Europe?
David Cameron is challenging one of the main principles of the EU – the free movement of people across EU borders. Because of this, the package is expected to be challenged by the European Commission who says that the free movement of people is Europe’s greatest achievement. In particular heavy criticism has come from László Andor (pictured above), the EU Commissioner for Employment. It was him who has stated that Britain risks itself of being the ‘nasty country’ in Europe. He claims that the Prime Minister is not telling us the ‘full truth’ about immigration. Even though Polish migration had been higher than expected, Mr Andor claims it did not cause harm and it had benefited the UK economy.
To the electorate of this country, it paints a very different picture. It is clear that the people want immigration to be controlled and Cameron himself knows this. To many, this will be very popular. With election getting closer, it is policies such as this one which could have a significant impact. Despite a lot of criticism, the Prime Minister does seem committed to these plans which could now show that he is beginning to take back powers from Brussels.
Of course whenever an issue such as this arises Nigel Farage is keen to speak to the media. He seems confident that Cameron does not have ‘the guts’ to make such changes. Instead he argued that the Prime Minister was the ‘biggest cheerleader for EU expansion’. He does agree with Cameron on one thing- that Labour made a ‘monumental mistake’ allowing mass immigration in 2004 when it was predicted only 13,000 Polish migrants would come to Britain.
This measure has already caused controversy in Europe. We don’t know if Cameron will legally be able to introduce this package and if he is successful how effective it will be. Will it please UKIP supporters? Probably not if Nigel Farage keeps telling his followers it is not tough enough. However, it does show that the party are taking a tougher stance against Europe which will probably go down quite well with the electorate.