Cameron urges migrant curbs, warns on British EU exit

Cameron urges migrant curbs, warns on British EU exit

British Prime Minister David Cameron promised tough curbs on welfare for EU migrants to counter a surge in arrivals.

By (Agencies)

Published: Sat 29 Nov 2014, 9:15 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 2:38 AM

Rocester (England): Prime Minister David Cameron hinted on Friday he might recommend a British exit from the European Union if it stops him restricting EU migrants’ access to UK welfare benefits, but said he was confident it would not come to that.

Cameron promised tough curbs on welfare for EU migrants to counter a surge in arrivals. He said migrants from Europe will have to leave Britain if they don’t get a job within six months, and must work for four years before receiving some benefits.

In a speech designed to breathe new life into his campaign for re-election next May, Cameron set out a detailed blueprint for limiting EU migrants’ access to benefits like tax credits and housing. In a demand likely to meet fierce resistance from EU leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Cameron said his proposals would require changes to EU treaties, which enshrine freedom of movement as a fundamental principle.

If re-elected, Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s ties with the EU before holding a referendum in 2017 on whether to stay in or leave the 28-nation union. While making it clear he thought that renegotiation would succeed, he dropped his strongest hint yet that he may campaign for Britain to quit the bloc if he fails.

“I will negotiate a cut to EU migration and make welfare reform an absolute requirement in renegotiation,” Cameron said.

“If I succeed in the negotiation that I am going to undertake, I will, as I have said, campaign to keep this country in a reformed EU. (But) if our concerns fall on deaf ears and we cannot put our relationship with the EU on a better footing, then of course I rule nothing out.” Immigration to Britain has increased sharply in the past decade and Cameron is under intense pressure to address voters’ concerns ahead of the May 2015 general election.

His Conservative party is losing support to the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which advocates leaving the EU altogether as the only way to curb EU migration.

In a long-awaited speech on the issue, Cameron stopped short of calling for a cap on new arrivals or a mooted “emergency brake”, which had caused consternation in EU capitals.

But he announced plans to make EU workers wait four years to receive income tax credits and access social housing, and vowed to stop migrants claiming benefits for children living elsewhere in Europe.

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