Thursday

13th Aug 2020

Mooted UK migrant cap would be 'illegal'

  • Home secretary Theresa May wants to slow migration flows into the UK (Photo: The Council of the European Union")

The European Commission has said reported UK plans to cap the number of EU migrants entering the country to 75,000 annually would be illegal.

“Any such restrictions would be illegal under the current rules,” European commission spokesperson Jonathan Todd told reporters in Brussels on Monday (16 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Home Office documents leaked to British daily Sunday Times say the policy shift is necessary to protect low-skilled UK workers from foreign competition and to stop social welfare abuse by EU migrants.

But a research director at the London-based think tank Open Europe doubts the veracity of the leak.

“It is not yet clear where this proposal for a 75,000 cap has come from or whether it is being seriously considered as policy,” Stephen Booth said.

He noted UK prime minister David Cameron and his home secretary Theresa May have both suggested transitional controls based on economic criteria or an annual cap on migrants for new countries that join the EU in the future.

“This would not apply to existing member states,” he said.

The Home Office leak reportedly says the cap would lower net migration flows down to around 30,000 per year from around the current 106,000. People wanting to move the UK, no matter where they come from in the EU, would first be required to have a job lined up.

Other suggestions include prohibiting access to social benefits and blocking tax credits for the first five years of residence.

The restrictions would entail revising the EU treaties and associated fundamental rules on the free movement of people.

The issue is highly politicised in the UK as seven-year transitional labour restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania are set to expire in January.

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals wanting to work in the UK currently have to apply for accession worker cards.

UK authorities say EU migrants are shopping around for hand outs and place too many financial burdens on British housing, schools, and health care.

An EU diplomat close to the issue earlier this month noted that ministers are more concerned about public perception than evidence of widespread abuse.

“One or two cases of foreign abuse is one or two cases too many,” said the contact.

In Brussels earlier this month, UK home secretary Theresa May had floated a similar idea to link free movement to minimum income thresholds.

Todd described such potential restrictions as a “massive own goal for the UK economy and the UK welfare system” because EU migrants tend to pay more in tax and social security to the welfare system of the host country than they receive in benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Amazon people urge EU banks to stop funding pollution
  2. Russia vaccine could be "dangerous", Germany says
  3. EU to finance new Covid-19 research projects
  4. Croatia receives EU earthquake relief funds
  5. Facemasks required throughout Brussels
  6. EU opposes Mexico's transparent junk food labels
  7. Greece accuses Turkey of 'escalation' in maritime dispute
  8. Slovakia expels three Russians linked to Berlin murder

EUobserver under attack in wider battle for EU free press

If EU citizens want to know the truth, then journalists need protection from malicious litigation, as EUobserver joined the list of targets, over an article about the late Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Belarus violence goes on, as EU ministers scramble
  2. French navy to deter Turkey's oil and gas grab
  3. EU ministers urged to talk Belarus, Turkey sanctions
  4. Drums of war again, in Europe
  5. EU looks on as Belarus protests turn lethal
  6. EU virus-alert agency says new restrictions needed
  7. Minsk violence prompts talk of EU sanctions
  8. Schrems privacy ruling risks EU's ties to digital world

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us