British Prime Minister David Cameron had promised to do all he can to curb EU migrants rights to benefits if he is re-elected in 2015.
In an interview with The Times, the Prime Minister pledged that he would look to secure a new looser agreement for Britain to remain part of the EU, at the centre of which will be plans to stop what he calls ‘welfare tourism’ – the fact that EU immigrants living in the UK are entitled to the same benefits as UK citizens, whether they are working or not.
“Could the whole problems of immigration, problems with welfare tourism be part of making sure we have a European relationship that works for Britain? Yes of course it can,” Cameron told the newspaper. “We should consider all of these things. I think we particularly need to look at the rules on benefits. One of the advantages of British membership of the EU is that British people go and live and work in other countries. But I think there is a problem with people living [here] and not working,”
Government figures released last month state that 407,000 foreigners currently claim benefits in the UK – a 40 per cent jump in just four years. During this period there has been a sharp rise in the number of claims made by immigrants from Eastern Europe.
The British government has already drawn up plans which state that immigrants should not be able to claim benefits until they have lived and paid tax in the UK for at least two years – although such rules would need to be first ratified by the EU before they could be implemented.
In addition to promising to secure a new, looser British membership agreement with the EU, the PM also reiterated his long-term desire to put Britain’s recast membership of the EU to a referendum.