EU referendum: Boris Johnson slapped down by Downing Street over call for Danish-style opt-out for benefit reforms

Prime Minister's spokeswoman said Denmark's opt-out on property rules was not ambitious enough for the scale of change Britain needed

Matt Dathan
Online political reporter
Monday 14 December 2015 13:56 GMT
Boris Johnson wants Cameron to seek a Danish-style opt-out
Boris Johnson wants Cameron to seek a Danish-style opt-out (PA)

Downing Street has slapped down Boris Johnson over his suggestion that David Cameron should seek a Danish-style opt-out to push through his plan to block benefits going to EU migrants.

The Mayor of London urged Mr Cameron to stand firm on plans to make EU migrant workers wait four years before they have access to in-work benefits such as tax credits and pointed to the special rules afforded to Denmark over property rules, where only those who have been resident in the country for more than five years can buy a second home.

The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said that although Denmark’s “carve-out” was an example of the kind of flexibility in the EU that Britain was seeking, it nonetheless was not ambitious enough to satisfy the scale of change Mr Cameron was demanding.

It comes ahead of a key summit of EU leaders in Brussels later this week, where Mr Cameron hopes to secure agreement on his plans to restrict migrants’ access to Britain’s welfare system.

On Monday Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond criticised EU leaders for blocking Mr Cameron’s plans but failing to come up with any Plan B.

Asked about Mr Johnson’s suggestion to copy Denmark’s opt-out, the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said: “What the Mayor of London has been setting out today… highlights on the one hand there is already flexibility within the EU – we’ve heard the Prime Minister talk a lot about the need for the EU to find a flexibility that it has shown in the past to address member states’ concerns.

“On the other hand it is also a very specific and niche area where Denmark has some specific agreement and that is linked to the purchase to second properties in Denmark, whereas clearly we are looking for something more significant and far-reaching in terms of benefits applying to workers from across the EU.”

Speaking ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, Mr Hammond said: "We have put that demand on the table and we have heard that a lot of our partners in Europe have concerns about it.

"So far we haven’t heard any counter-proposals, we haven’t heard any alternative suggestions that will deliver the same effect in a different way.

"But we have made very clear that if people have other ideas that will deliver on this very important agenda for the British people then we are absolutely ready to listen to them and enter into a dialogue. But at the moment the only proposition on the table is our four year proposal."

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