David Cameron may seek only short-term EU migration limits, says Major

Former PM says he sees immigration as 'a shortish-term problem'

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Indy Politics

David Cameron may seek only temporary curbs to EU migration to Britain after failing to persuade other European leaders to dilute freedom of movement rules.

The prospect of short-term changes to relieve the pressure on the UK was raised yesterday by Sir John Major, the former prime minister and a close ally of Mr Cameron.

The idea may be included when Mr Cameron sets out his demands in a speech on immigration before Christmas. Sir John suggested that Britain was attracting migrants from southern EU states whose economies were struggling, saying any curbs could be lifted once they achieved growth.

He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I see it as a shortish-term problem, maybe not a year, maybe longer, and we need a little help over that period.”

He added: “I think there are some practical things that could be done that don’t infringe the principle [of free movement] but do meet the problem.”

The former prime minister said the UK would have a “lesser future” if it left the EU and rejected the view of Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, that the Government should be prepared to walk away from the table if a deal could be reached.

Ukip dimissed the prospect of temporary restrictions as “laughable” on the grounds that southern European economies were unlikely to bounce back quickly. Sir John attacked the “sheer nastiness” of Ukip ahead of Thursday’s by-election in Rochester and Strood, where Mark Reckless, the former Tory MP, is seeking to retain his seat after defecting to Ukip.

Sir John Major appears on the BBC's "Andrew Marr Show" on November 16, 2014 in London, England

He said Ukip was “profoundly un-British in every way” because of their views and voters were only backing them out of frustration with the economy. “That will fade away as the economy improves, and it is materially improving,” he said.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, described recent research by University College London, suggesting that EU migrants made a £20bn contribution to the UK between 2001 and 2011, as a “silly report”. He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “First of all, you’ve got to take them all the way through until they get older and they actually start taking from the state. You don’t account for the fact often in many communities they literally change the schooling because so many people arrive not speaking English, you’ve then got problems about local services, transport, all that kind of stuff.”