New limits on EU migrants who claim benefits in Britain are to be a key demand in the Government’s attempt to negotiate a looser relationship with Europe.
David Cameron is expected to flesh out his goals next week in a planned renegotiation of our ties with Brussels ahead of an in-out referendum on EU membership due by 2017.
Cabinet sources say the right to ‘shut the door’ on unemployment benefits for newcomers and existing migrants who have not lived here for a minimum period would be top of the list.
Britain is also expected to demand the right to stop making payments, such as child benefit, to the dependent children of migrant workers.
The move comes after a poll for the Mail identified deep public anxiety about the ending of transitionary immigration restrictions on new EU members Romania and Bulgaria in January.
The poll found that 82 per cent did not want citizens of the two countries to gain free access to the UK, 85 per cent said they feared schools and hospitals could not cope and 76 per cent said young Britons could lose out on jobs.
Ministers insist they are powerless to prevent a potential influx of workers because of EU rules. But after the Mail’s bombshell poll Tory backbenchers urged Mr Cameron to stand up to Europe.
Peter Bone, Tory MP for Wellingborough, said: ‘This poll shows exactly where the British people are. The Prime Minister should listen to that, make a stand, and extend the transitionary arrangements for a further five years.
Douglas Carswell, Tory MP for Clacton, said: ‘You almost have to be a member of the government not to get it. The Prime Minister and his colleagues need to stop listening to the forces of inertia, and need to get on and act.
The poll also found more voters trust Labour on immigration (17 per cent) than the Tories (11 per cent). Some 44 per cent said they trusted no party.
Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, said: ‘We need to make it clear that transitional controls will not end on December 31, and this would send a strong signal to the EU that Britain is absolutely serious about renegotiating our terms.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the MigrationWatch think tank, said it was ‘astonishing’ that Labour came out ahead in the survey.
Next week, a group of Tories will unveil their own blueprint for reform of Britain’s relationship with Europe.
Andrea Leadsom, Chris Heaton-Harris and Tim Loughton, from the Fresh Start Project, have identified at least five major changes to EU treaties they say should be at the heart of Britain’s renegotiation.
They include reforms to protect our financial services industry and an end to limits on work hours. Tory Eurosceptics also want reforms to energy policy, the common agricultural policy, defence and immigration.
Ministers are already furious that the European Commission has taken legal action to try to prevent welfare curbs on non-British EU citizens.
Brussels claims making migrants show they are ‘habitual residents’ before they can claim child benefit, child tax credit, jobseeker’s allowance and state pension credit breaks the right to free movement.
Migrants would have to be actively looking for work and have a realistic prospect of getting a job to claim unemployment benefits.
Mr Cameron is thought to be ready to insist on tougher time limits. Some immigrants already have to wait a year for certain welfare payments, but this would be bolstered to ensure they ‘pay in’ to the British system before they can take out.