DAVID Cameron has been warned that his proposed deal to curb benefits for European Union migrants could lead to a surge in the number coming to the UK before the “emergency brake” is applied.
The Prime Minister’s EU referendum strategy has come under fire from his own grassroots activists and he has also faced unrest within his top team as he prepares for a summit with his counterparts in Brussels on 18 February.
In a further sign of the divisions on his own side, former leadership contender David Davis warned that coverage of the proposed curbs on benefits would act as an incentive to workers to head to the UK over the coming months before a deal can be implemented.
Former Europe minister Mr Davis warned: “The so-called emergency brake that the Prime Minister is attempting to negotiate with Brussels is very likely to increase the number of people immigrating into the UK in the coming year.” He said that since the proposed deal was set out “Eastern European newspapers have carried numerous stories about in-work benefits and the plans to terminate them for the first four years after a migrant’s arrival in the UK” while Brussels has suggested that the scheme could take 12 months to implement. He added: “Under such circumstances the incentive for anybody wishing to come to live in the UK will be to come as quickly as possible to beat the deadline. Accordingly we are likely to see a surge in migrants in the next 12 months.”
Former cabinet minister Sir Eric Pickles, a Eurosceptic who now looks likely to support Mr Cameron’s deal, said: “What we need to be clear about is, we’re not trying to prevent people moving inside the European Union.”
Instead the reforms were aimed at preventing people getting “something for nothing” by gaining benefits before contributing to the UK.
Sir Eric added: “We’ve got to ensure that there isn’t a new influx.”