Most Europeans back migrant curbs, poll finds
By Benjamin Fox
Most Europeans believe that the number of migrant workers from other EU countries has been bad for their country and would like to restrict freedom of movement, a new opinion poll suggests.
The research by polling firm YouGov, which was released on Thursday (11 December) interviewed more than 6,000 people across six EU countries - the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Finland - as well as Norway.
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Swedes were the only country surveyed where a majority agreed that EU immigration had benefited their country.
Meanwhile, although majorities in Britain, Germany, Denmark and Finland all believed that immigration had been bad for them, French people were the most hostile. Only 9 percent agreed that immigration had been beneficial for France, while 53 percent disagreed.
Several national leaders have made moves to clamp down on the access EU migrant workers have to welfare benefits, led by UK prime minister David Cameron. Cameron would like to impose a cap on the total number of EU migrants and wants EU nationals to work for at least four years before being able to access the UK benefits system.
Meanwhile, the German government tabled legislation in August aimed at tackling abuse of the welfare benefits system and restricting access to child allowances.
Asked whether migrants should be allowed to claim benefits, a large majority in all six EU countries said that migrants should be required to work for at least one year before being able to access benefits, and should find work before being allowed to move abroad.
However, the three Scandinavian countries disagreed that annual quotas on EU migrants should be imposed. The strongest support for quotas was in the UK and France where 64 percent and 58 percent, respectively, supported their introduction.
The introduction of quotas has been rejected by EU leaders on the grounds that this would breach the bloc's commitment to freedom of movement, one of its four fundamental freedoms.
Elsewhere, the poll suggests that Europeans are highly cautious about their economic futures.
A majority of respondents in the UK, France, Sweden and Finland felt that their family’s economic prospects would deteriorate over the next year, while Britons were the only group to believe that their country’s economy would be in a better condition in a year’s time.
After suffering a double dip recession in 2008 and then 2010, the UK is now one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, while both France and Germany, the two largest economies in the eurozone, have seen growth of less than 1 percent in 2014. French and Finnish respondents were the most gloomy about their economic prospects.
A referendum on the UK’s continued EU membership would also be on a knife-edge according to the poll, with ‘No’ supporters marginally ahead by 43 percent to 38 percent.