Monday, 23 December 2013

EU Migrant Benefits

We have announced fairer rules for the access European nationals have to UK benefits. The Coalition Government’s reforms will do three things:

  • Bring the UK more in line with other EU states
  • Help build confidence in our immigration system
  • Protect the freedom of movement in the long-term

Bring the UK more in line with other EU states
The idea that European nationals have unfettered access to benefits across the member states simply isn’t true. Other countries such as the Netherlands already impose a three month residence requirement before you can access benefits like job seekers’ allowance.

The EU has transformed over the last 60 years. This isn’t small numbers of people moving around a handful of similar states – it’s a 28 member club with huge wealth discrepancies across its members. It’s only right that our rules reflect that.

Help build confidence in our immigration system
Britain is a welcoming nation and we take pride in our openness. But after decades of mismanagement under Labour people have lost faith. Add to that the effects of prolonged austerity and it would be totally irresponsible for this Coalition to stick our head in the sand and ignore people’s concerns. The single best way to preserve our tolerance and openness is to ensure our immigration system is one which people can believe in.

Protect the freedom of movement – which Brits benefit from and which is at the heart of the pro-European project – in the long-term
We are delivering these changes as pro-Europeans, and anyone who believes we are better off as an outward facing nation, engaged with our neighbours, should back them. If we don’t get to grips with this issue, we surrender this debate to the UKIPs of this world – the people who would rather we pull up the drawbridge and turn our back on the EU.

There will be people today who say we are going too far and pandering to the right. There will be people today who say we’re not going far enough, we need to be tougher. But that should tell you that we are in exactly the right place. Freedom of movement under the European Treaties is about working, studying, contributing – it always has been. And these are sensible and reasonable reforms to ensure that right to work does not automatically mean a right to claim.

These are sensible and reasonable reforms to ensure that the right to work does not automatically mean the right to claim. Other countries in the EU already have similar policies and are considering the case for going further – unfettered access to benefits across the member states simply does not exist.
These changes will help restore public confidence in the immigration system, which was shattered by years of Labour mismanagement, disdain and shoulder-shrugging. Anyone who believes we are better off as an outward facing nation should support these changes. If we don’t get to grips with these issues, pro-Europeans surrender the debate to the UKIPs of this world.

Under our reforms: 
Out of work benefits won’t be immediate for people when they first arrive:

  • There will be a presumption against paying out of work benefits such as job seekers allowance for the first three months
  • Newly arrived EU jobseekers will not be able to claim housing benefit, at least until they get a job

Benefits won’t be unconditional – you’ll have to prove you are here to work:

  • You’ll be asked to show you are doing a certain level of work (eg over 13 hours) to stop people doing hardly any and saying they’re exercising their treaty rights
  • If people are clearly not here to work – so if they are begging or sleeping rough – and have been removed, they will be barred from re-entry for 12 months, unless they can prove they have a proper reason to be here, such as a job, or that they can sustain themselves here

Benefits won’t be indefinite

  • If an EU national stops working or becomes unable to work we will no longer pay out of work benefits (JSA) indefinitely. They will only be able to claim for a maximum of six months unless they can prove they have a genuine prospect of employment

So not on day one, not without strings and not on tap forever. Most sensible people would agree that’s fair enough.

We are also clamping down on those who employ people below the minimum wage. They will pay the price with a fine of up to £20,000 for every under-paid employee – more than four times the fine today.