David Cameron will announce plans today to ban European Union nationals from claiming in-work benefits in Britain for four years as the Prime Minister attempts to regain the political initiative on immigration.
He will also set out moves to bar jobless EU nationals from receiving benefits and to toughen rules on removing them from the country. He will also promise to end the payment of child benefit to youngsters living abroad.
The Government was reeling yesterday from new figures revealing a dramatic leap in net annual migration to more than a quarter of a million, which it blames on a surge of new arrivals from the EU.
The sharp increase – one of the biggest on record – left the Prime Minister’s pledge to cut immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by next year’s general election in ruins.
Mr Cameron believes he will gain support from other EU nations for some of his plans, but Tory sources acknowledged the proposals on in-work benefits, deporting unemployed migrants and child benefit would require EU treaty change.
Mr Cameron is also expected to announce proposals to limit the right to freedom of movement within the EU, arguing that Britain has unfairly shouldered the burden of recent population shifts within the Union.
The Prime Minister’s speech comes 24 hours after official figures showed net migration rose to 260,000 in the 12 months to June, compared with 182,000 the previous year.
But yesterday’s figures showed net migration was now higher than the 244,000 that the Government inherited from Labour.
The bulk of the new arrivals are economic migrants from the EU – principally from Eastern Europe as well as Mediterranean countries – who have full entitlement to work in Britain, although there was also a rise in arrivals from outside the EU.
The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said the figures were proof of need to limit freedom of movement within the EU.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 583,000 people moved to the UK over the period, a “statistically significant increase” from the 502,000 in the previous 12 months. It included a 45,000 rise from the EU and 30,000 from outside the EU, undermining Government claims that immigration totals are being driven by new arrivals from within the EU.
Net migration to the UK – the difference between those arriving and leaving – was 260,000 in the period, up from 182,000 in the previous 12 months, as 323,000 people emigrated from the country. The 43 per cent annual leap is among the highest on record.
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