Cameron cuts EU migrants' unemployment and child benefits

UK Prime Minister David Cameron set out new benefits rules for EU migrants. 12 May 2010. [Number 10/Flickr]

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday (29 July) set out new welfare rules to cut European migrants' access to social security payments, marking the latest in a string of British measures aimed at addressing voters' concerns over immigration.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cameron said that from November migrants coming to Britain from the European Union to find work would be entitled to claim unemployment and child benefits for three months, rather than the previous six months.

Opinion polls show immigration is one of voters' biggest concerns going into a national election in 2015, fuelling a rise in Eurosceptic sentiment that has helped the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) draw voters away from Cameron's Conservatives.

In a bid to stop voters defecting, Cameron has said he wants to cut net migration and has targeted those who he says come to Britain solely to tap its benefit system.

"We're [...] making sure people come for the right reasons - which has meant addressing the magnetic pull of Britain's benefits system," Cameron said.

He said that by restricting job seekers' welfare access to only three months he was sending a clear message to potential migrants, "You cannot expect to come to Britain and get something for nothing."

The opposition Labour party has criticised Cameron for not doing enough to stop low-skilled migrants driving wages down.

Other rule changes introduced since January have included tightening the criteria for claimants and mandating longer waiting periods before migrants become eligible for payments.

European Union officials have in the past criticised Cameron's approach to immigration and said that there is no evidence to show migrants move to Britain to claim benefits.

Nevertheless, other European countries such as Germany have expressed sympathy with Cameron's concerns, and it is one of only a few policy areas where he has support for changes to EU rules.

In the face of Eurosceptic sentiment within his own party and the wider electorate, Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's ties with the EU if he is re-elected, and then put the country's continuing membership to a public vote in 2017.


May 2015: UK General Election

2017: Potential UK referendum on EU membership



kamenchanov's picture

I would not deny that social benefits migration is not a problem in the EU. Speaking with disappointment, I have met too many people from my country pursuing this exact purpose by moving to another EU Member State. However, this is a problem which necessitates an EU-wide decision precisely because of the fact that it is the EU that caused it in the first place with its "non-negotiable" right to free movement. Granting this right to EU citizens bears economic consequences on Member States which the EU is obviously reluctant to address. Although it took one entire year for the UK to issue my work permit (not social benefits) when Bulgarians were still obstructed from entering UK's labour market, I do not blame them for not wanting to provide social benefits to non-British citizens. The EU should not be allowed to impose this burden on Member States.

Once again, there is a solution, though politics (as usual) undoubtedly gets in the way of its execution. It should be an EU agency that provides social benefits to migrating EU citizens. Since Member States are already doing this, why not pool the money into a European Social Benefits Fund which can afterwards be allocated appropriately? Eligibility criteria can be easily divided into several categories: 1) students (first and foremost); 2) workers (with insufficient income to support their families); 3) unemployed (and unpaid interns). This should cover the most basic groups of citizens that would need social benefits.

Of course, such a suggestion raises many questions and obstacles but each and every one of them has an answer, and thus, a solution. I have thought so much about this issue I should probably write a Regulation -.-

Any thoughts anybody?

an european's picture

Completely agree with you including the youth unemployement!
Since the E.U. doesn't have a treasury nor a budget under E.U. level then - i ask me - why not doing so!
I tell you something !
E.U. leaders or Council fear the words " f e d e r a l " !
They fear (I don't know why )and because of this -they are still pussyfooting in Intergovernmentalism!
So the Council are useless continuing that moron economic after the crisis began still thinking they could get out of the stagnation !
How much did I hear the word federal from meps or Leaders ? Not much !
Without changing at least to a real little governance the actual "institution" unfortunately is already condemned I
It's either the one or the other but not between !
Either Leaders take a real step in unification or be furthermore full restricted .

Joe Thorpe's picture

The trouble is that it is the same few countries that are taking the strain in the EU. All the countries that should be reforming are simply doing the King Herod & washing their hands of their citizens fleeing their economies that can't sustain their citizens. Countries that have populations that have fleeing populations must be sanctioned, they are simply exporting their problems while living off EU subsidies & the countries that they land in are those that are the net contributors to the EU budget. The benefits paid to non nationals should be tax deductible from EU budget payments

Southron's picture

I have yet to see any convincing numbers of "emigration for benefits". Talking about myself (an expat into the UK), i didnt even knew what I could claim here.... let alone how to claim it.

Any way, now I work and pay alot of taxes here - so I do damn feel entitled to whatever those taxes pay.

A Londoner's picture

A common UK view! If you have contributed you are entitled to claim (and you are). But if you are newly arrived and have contributed nothing you should not be entitled to claim.