Friday, 17 January 2014

Liberal Democrats And The European Union

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.

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.

On December 23 Danny Alexander wrote a piece for the Independent outlining the importance of the UK’s membership in the EU. He wrote that the European elections in May will be “fought on issues that are of direct relevance to families the length and breadth of Britain.”

He also wrote: “At the heart of our campaign will be the link between UK jobs and our membership of the EU. A surge in anti-European sentiment in the Euro elections would send a shiver of doubt into the boardrooms of global companies that locate in Britain because we are a gateway to the EU single market.”

He added: “Leaving the EU would result in less investment, less jobs and less prosperity across the UK.”

The article is available here.

There is a long agreed Government position, which is for Britain, like many other countries in the European Union, to lift transitional controls on January 1st.

It is also the case, that extending transitional controls beyond the maximum seven years imposed by the Coalition Government is not compatible with our EU treaty obligations.

The Liberal Democrats do not support capping EU immigration.

Nick Clegg has made it very clear that withdrawal from the ECHR or scrapping of the Human Rights Act are simply not on the table, while there are Lib Dems round the Cabinet table.

A Liberal Democrat Spokesperson said:
"Liberal Democrats want to build a stronger economy and a fairer society. We are clear that it is important to crack down on rogue employers who do not pay the minimum wage. 
That is why in August 2013 the Employment Relations Minister, Jo Swinson, announced new rules to make it easier for the Government to name and shame those employers who are found not to be paying the minimum wage. This means that those who break minimum wage rules risk damaging their reputation, as well as facing a fine. Alongside this Vince Cable has asked the Low Pay Commission to consider how the minimum wage may be able to rise faster over the medium term, and from April low and middle earners will feel the benefit of the Liberal Democrat income tax cut that will save them over £700 a year compared to 2010."