EU Commission President Criticises UK Government's Plans to Restrict Benefits for Immigrants
Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the EU Commission, has accused David Cameron of "beating up" EU immigrants, suggesting his plans to curb immigration of poorer Europeans to Britain to work legally as politically motivated. The Prime Minister's proposal comes ahead of a potential British referendum to decide whether the country should stay or leave the UK.
The UK Prime Minister's plan included EU migrants being prevented from claiming in-work benefits for four years; preventing migrants from claiming child benefit for dependents who live outside the UK; and deporting migrants from the UK if they remained jobless after six months of living in the country.
Mr Cameron had previously urged for EU support on curbs to welfare payments to migrants, and admitted that his government would miss their target of cutting net migration to tens of thousands before next year's general election after vowing to "get what Britain needs" by changing the free movement of people. However, Mr Cameron's plea was greatly unsuccessful, meeting strong resistance from the German Chancellor who made clear she would never agree to any measure, which impinged the fundamental principle of free movement.
Jean-Claude Juncker also strongly criticised the Prime Minister: he defended EU migrants from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria saying they were "earning their wages", and said the suggestion by Cameron that they were criminals was discriminatory. He added that the free movement of labour should not be abused, stating: "It is the national legislatures who should fight against this abuse and I am utterly against behaving as if all Poles, all Romanians, all Bulgarians in the European labour market are of a basic mentality that is criminal.
"One should stop – especially Great Britain which always fought for the enlargement of the European Union – discriminating against countries just because, in the current context, it goes down well", alluding to the political element in his plans.
The Prime Minister's plans are clearly viewed, by the Commission, as scapegoating poorer migrants – who were simply asserting a legal right to live and work in Britain. Mr Cameron suggested the curb on migration after pressure from Conservative backbenchers and the rise in popularity of Ukip.
Although Mr Juncker stated he did still want Great Britain to remain an active and constructive member of the EU, he also warned that if the fundamental right of free movement of workers is questioned, then "Great Britain has to know that one day the free movement of capital will also be called into question… it will be the end for London's tax rulings, that will no longer be possible in London."
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