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Thursday, November 13, 2014

IDS sets out broad strokes of reforms to EU free movement

The Telegraph has an interesting transcript of an Iain Duncan Smith interview with LBC Radio, which outlines the Government's current thinking on EU migration and which might signal the types of reforms that David Cameron is weighing up before delivering his promised speech on immigration in the aftermath of the Rochester and Strood by-election.

Here's what the Work and Pensions Secretary said, following this week's European Court of Justice ruling on access to benefits:
"This is about people who want to enter a country and have no prospects of work and are not intending to work, so that is stopping and shutting the door to them as we have done." 
Essentially, IDS says that the ECJ's ruling runs with the grain of the domestic changes the UK has already made to restrict access to out-of-work benefits. But he is clear that he wants to go further:
"The next problem is people who come to work, and then can claim full tax credits even though they have made no contribution. And that is the point I am making... countries shouldn’t have to do that. They shouldn’t have to support people who are coming over here, who have made no contribution." 
This is very much along the lines of what our Research Director Stephen Booth and Professor Damian Chalmers proposed in their pamphlet on EU migration and national welfare systems - a re-write of EU legislation to enable national governments to restrict access to non-contributory benefits for up to three years.

And, thirdly, IDS suggests that:
"And the third area which you talked about…is that the issue around freedom of movement isn’t that you don’t want to stop freedom of movement, but what you want to be able to say is: ‘sometimes there are limits that communities can absorb people and the pressure on public services and housing and stuff like that’." 
"European rules need to take recognition of the pressure that puts on local communities, and that’s really part of the negotiation."
This last point is perhaps the most interesting as it suggests that the option of some form of 'emergency brake' on EU migration is still under consideration.

As we have said before, there are many ways in which such a mechanism could operate, and it might just be negotiable, although this would be a much taller ask than reforming the rules around access to welfare.


Denis Cooper said...

I note that the Tory party, and others who should know better, are now assiduously trying to propagate a myth that the EU's central principle of "freedom of movement" actually relates only to "workers".

The utter falsity of that proposition is easily confirmed by doing simple word searches in the EU treaties, which are here:


and can easily be searched by pressing "Ctrl" and "F" together and entering the search term into the "Find" box.

The references to freedom of movement are primarily to the freedom of movement of "persons", starting with the preamble to the Treaty on European Union:

"RESOLVED to facilitate the free movement of persons, while ensuring the safety and security of their peoples, by establishing an area of freedom, security and justice, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty and of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union"

and so on throughout the text:

"The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime."


"The internal market shall comprise an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties."

and so on; with that last paragraph ultimately going back to provisions of the 1957 Treaty of Rome to establish the European Economic Community, Article 3(c):

"the abolition, as between Member States, of obstacles to freedom of movement for persons, services and capital".

Where the EU treaties do make specific references to "workers" as just one category of "persons", those who are paid employees, it is mostly to ensure protection of their rights not to restrict them.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, perhaps goes to aid the argument about benefit entitlement and the government not using what is available to them. Of course this is perhaps to the advantage of the employers, I.e. Keeping their wage costs down. Perhaps a more important subject is the question of so called asylum seekers from outside europe, many who don't even speak English, therefore not having a hope in hell of getting employment, a huge strain on the already squeezed taxpayer, of course they will be long term unlike many Europeans who will probably go back to their respective countries when their countries economics improve.

When the recent figures came out stating it was the British who had the biggest benefits bill, I wonder how
many of them are immigrants wth British passports??

What the government should be concerned with is the ever increasing pension bill they are creating for the future workers, they apparently are having trouble paying the present generation so what does the future hold for our children??

I hope IDS is going to address the bigger issue I have just mentioned.

jon livesey said...

Well, I think you are still pretty much missing the point in two ways.

The first is that the longer the UK out-performs the rest of the EU, and the more we out-perform them, the more the UK will be disproportioinally the preferred destination for migration *even* *if* there are uniform rules across the EU. No-one in their right minds is going to migrate to Greece or Ireland but economic success will present a high incentive to migrate to the UK.

The second point oyu are missing is that even if you have some rules about benefits for the econommically inactive, those rules will just create an incentive to game the system. It makes it possible for a migrant to calculate what sort of job they need to get in the UK and for how long, in order to claim benefits.

The only system that works is for each EU member to police their own borders - or not, if they choose not to - and set their won rules according to the situation from time to time.

In other words, immigration and social benefits have to be returned to the member states.

Average Englishman said...

IDS cannot make a square into a circle by chipping away at a corner or two. The UK public want control of their borders back. End. No short term fudge will do and particularly not one constructed by Dave and his crew who continue to demonstrate that they cannot be trusted (viz: the recent non-debate in Parliament about the European Arrest Warrant - disgraceful).

Jesper said...

I came across an interesting article:

A quote:
"But the most powerful force to reduce inequality worldwide has gone largely unrecognized by the West, even though their value has been proven in the Gulf nations: open migration laws that are coupled, paradoxically, with caste systems."

A re-introduction of the caste-system....

Anonymous said...

yet i have read that it is free movement of labor with minimal entitlement to state support and no in work benefits or entitlements--it is certainly so in france