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Prime Minister right to try to reform free movement within the EU
27/11/2013 15:10:00

 
 

This Government is committed to reducing net migration from the hundreds of thousands a year under the last Government to the tens of thousands where it used to be. We want the best and brightest to settle here, but we don't want large numbers of relatively low-skilled migrants who will simply end up competing with our own unemployed for jobs.

Yet when it comes to the EU, we have no control - an issue that has been brought into focus by the imminent end of accession controls for Bulgaria and Romania.

In the short term, we are doing all we can legally do within the limits of the treaties the last Labour Government signed up to.

• Changing the rules so that no one who comes to this country will be able to claim work benefits for the first three months. After three months, they will only be able to claim for a maximum of six months unless they can prove they have a genuine prospect of employment.

• Not allowing newly arrived EU jobseekers to claim Housing Benefit.

• Removing people who are not here to work and are begging or sleeping rough. They will be barred from re-entry for 12 months, unless they can prove they have a proper reason to be here, such as a job.

• Clamping down on those who employ people below the minimum wage with a fine of up to £20,000 for every underpaid employee – more than four times the fine today.

But in the longer term, we need to look at the principle of free movement. It is one of the cornerstones of the EU, but it has to evolve to take account of the way Europe has changed. When we joined the Common Market, it was a group of countries of broadly similar economic standing. Some Brits might go and work in Germany but a roughly equal number of Germans might come and work here. Now, however, the EU includes many more countries, some of them much less prosperous than ourselves. Freedom of movement has been predominantly one way - from poorer countries to wealthier ones. We shouldn't for one moment criticise those who have come here - they want to build a better future for themselves and their families and the vast majority have worked very hard to do so. But when we still have so many people out of work or under-employed, is it in our interests?

So the Prime Minister has made clear that , as part of his plan to reform the EU, he will work with others to return the concept of free movement to a more sensible basis. He will then let Britain decide by putting that reformed Europe to the British people in an in-out referendum.

Finally, solving this problem is about reforming our education and welfare systems as well as immigration policy. If we want the jobs our economy is creating to go to our unemployed, we need to make sure it pays to work and that they have the skills employers are looking for as well as reforming free movement with the EU.

Comment on this blog

 

Readers' Comments

On 03/12/2013 09:03:00 Jim wrote:
We need to leave the EU, and currently the only main party with this as a policy is UKIP.

David Cameron will fail in his negotiations and will humilate the UK in the process. (Sure there will be some measures that can be spun as a success.) Our neighbours are fed up with the UK moaning on, and rightly so. If we don't like the club, we should get out.

DC was dragged kicking and screaming into promising a referendum which is at best its years away. I doubt it will happen. But it's not just free movement of people within the EU. It's all the human rights nonsense that means we can't deport so-called asylum seekers/terrorists who come in from outside of the UK.

All this has distorted immigration policy as the government can control so little of it. Whilst we get the immigration we don't want, city companies are finding it increasingly difficult to get work permits for people coming from countries such as the US and Australia.

Oh and can we stop talking about "net migration"? It suggests that a Brit leaving the UK somehow equates to a foreigner coming in.

 
 

 

 

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Gavin Barwell, House of Commons, SW1A 1AA, Tel  020 8660 0491      © Gavin Barwell  2017       Promoted by Ian Parker on behalf of Gavin Barwell, both at 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG