Friday

1st Mar 2024

UK proposes new EU free movement rules

  • May: 'These tragedies have been exacerbated by the European system of no borders' (Photo: The Council of the European Union")

The British government has said EU free movement should be limited to people who have a job to go to.

Home secretary Theresa May put forward the idea in an op-ed in the Sunday Times on 30 August.

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  • EU migration is problematic because it drains talent from poorer countries (Photo: Helena Spongenberg)

“Reducing net EU migration need not mean undermining the principle of free movement. When it was first enshrined, free movement meant the freedom to move to a job, not the freedom to cross borders to look for work or claim benefits”, she said.

She noted that even job-based EU migration is problematic because it drains poorer countries.

According to May, Portugal has lost one third of its nurses, the Czech Republic is losing one fifth of medical graduates, and Bulgaria is losing 500 doctors a year.

She said the UK should make sure foreign students leave when their studies end.

She also said the EU’s passport-free Schengen system, which the UK isn’t part of, is a pull factor for African and Middle Eastern migrants.

She said the “greatest beneficiaries” of the “broken European migration system” are “the callous gangs who sell false dreams and trade on the free borders within the EU”.

“These tragedies [migrant deaths] have been exacerbated by the European system of no borders, the Schengen area … This is a wake-up call for the EU”.

Her remarks come ahead of British leader David Cameron’s visit, on Friday, to Lisbon and Madrid.

His EU trips are designed to win support for renegotiating EU-UK relations ahead of Britain’s in/out referendum.

With curbs on EU migration and welfare rights top of his reform agenda, he also said, last November: “We want EU job seekers to have a job offer before they come here, and to stop UK taxpayers having to support them if they don’t”.

Meanwhile, May will, in the next few weeks, table new immigration laws to crack down on black-sector work.

Her bill is to let UK authorities seize illegal wages, deport people without appeal, and put burden of proof on employers to show they made proper checks on workers’ eligibility.

For its part, the UK’s Office for National Statistics said last week net immigration to Britain in the 12 months to March reached 330,000.

The figure is the highest since 2005, shortly after the EU’s 2004 enlargement.

Net immigration of EU citizens, excluding UK nationals, rose from 130,000 the previous year to 183,000 and was, the office says, “partly driven by EU (Bulgaria and Romania) citizens”.

Most people came to find jobs, to study, or to join family and friends.

The Confederation of British Industries (CBI), a leading business lobby, also on Sunday, criticised May’s EU proposal.

John Cridland, its director, said in a statement: “Our hospitals and care homes couldn’t function without overseas workers; building sites that we need to deliver more homes and big infrastructure projects would also stall”.

“We’d be concerned if EU workers had to be hired for a job before coming to the UK … this would cause issues for firms without the capacity to advertise and recruit across the whole of Europe”.

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