A plan being considered by Number 10 to ban EU migrants from claiming benefits in the UK for two or three years would also affect Britons.
Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to clamp down on EU migrants claiming benefits in the UK, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued an embarrassing rebuttal in response to Tory demands for a cap on EU arrivals.
Angela Merkel said any attempt by David Cameron to introduce an arbitrary cap on free movement would mark a “point of no return” for Britain’s continued membership of the EU.
Free movement of people is a founding principle of the EU and allows citizens from all member states, including the UK, to move from one country to another in search of work and a place to live.
The Times reports that should David Cameron continue to pursue a cap on EU arrivals, Germany would end its support for Britain’s continued membership of the exclusive club of nations.
In an attempt to appease eurosceptics and Tory MPs calling for yet more welfare cuts, Downing Street is now cowardly considering preventing EU migrants from being able to claim benefits in the UK, until they have contributed for at least two or three years.
The ban would apply to all benefits, including tax credits, and would affect everyone in the UK so as not to illegally discriminate against EU migrants.
Is the chance to hit struggling Brits and migrants at the same time too good of an opportunity to pass up for the Tories?
According to the Migration Advisory Committee, around £5 billion of the £30 billion annual tax credit bill goes to EU migrants. Figures suggest that EU migrants are more likely to be in work than people born in the UK – 79.2% compared to 75.4%. Working Tax Credits are used to top up low wages.
The proposal was put forward by Syed Kamall, head of the Conservatives in the European Parliament. He said: “One of the problems we face is that we have a universal benefits system, whereas other countries have the contributory benefits system”.
Mr Kamall confirmed that the plan was being considered by Number 10, but said some Conservatives had reservations about changing the welfare system and restricting the free movement of Labour.
He added: “I would like to say that if we win the next election that benefits from the end of 2017 would be contributory. That gives people now in the system time to contribute”.
Pro-European Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke told BBC1’s Sunday Politics: “There’s less abuse of benefits amongst the Eastern Europeans that there is amongst the native British population here.”
“If you’re going to have a sensible single market, if we want to compete with the Americans and the Chinese and modern world, we need the free movement of labour. All our companies, multinational companies, will go spare if you start inferring with that”.
There has also been the suggestion that EU migrants would not be allowed to stay in the UK for longer than three months if they are unable to support themselves. However this has been brushed off by Whitehall officials as mere “speculation”.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister will do what is right for Britain, as he has repeatedly made clear.”