David Cameron has been warned that Britain is at risk of being seen as a “nasty country” as he presses ahead with a clampdown on benefits for migrants.
The Prime Minister has set out radical plans to overhaul welfare rules, including stopping new arrivals from the European Union (EU) getting out-of-work benefits for three months.
But European employment commissioner Laszlo Andor labelled the move an “unfortunate over-reaction”.
The PM unveiled the reforms five weeks before access restrictions to the UK labour market are lifted for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals, but Labour warned the changes will not be in place in time.
Mr Andor, a Hungarian economist, said: “This is an unfortunate over-reaction. The British public has not been given all the truth and the full truth about this subject. So we would need a more accurate presentation of the reality, not under pressure, not under such hysteria which sometimes happens in the UK.”
Last night the European Commission made clear that EU freedom of movement rules were not optional and London had to accept them if it wanted to remain in the single market. “Free movement is non-negotiable,” Viviane Reding, vice-president of the EU executive said.
Under Mr Cameron’s proposals, after a three-month period without benefits EU nationals will only be able to claim for a maximum of six months unless they can prove they have a genuine prospect of employment.
Those found begging or sleeping rough could be deported and barred from re-entry for 12 months unless they can show they have a proper reason to be in the UK, such as a job.
Elsewhere, firms that pay less than the minimum wage will face fines of up to £20,000 in a bid to prevent undercutting of British workers.
Mr Cameron also demanded wider EU reforms for the future, suggesting labour movement from countries joining the EU could be limited until they hit a certain level of GDP per head.
“We need to face the fact that free movement has become a trigger for vast population movements caused by huge disparities in income,” he said.
“It is time for a new settlement which recognises that free movement is a central principle of the EU, but it cannot be a completely unqualified one.”
Labour shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mr Cameron was “playing catch-up” after failing to take action earlier.
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said the measures fall “way short” of what the British public want.
Mr Cameron denied he was “running scared” of Ukip and opinion polls: “I wouldn’t accept that for one moment. I’ve always said I want to see net migration into our country reduced to a much more manageable level – down to the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands seen in recent years.”
Illegal immigrants and children sent back to Congo after 12 years
A CONGOLESE family have been told they have no right to remain in Scotland, 12 years after the father entered the country illegally.
The Supreme Court backed Home Secretary Theresa May’s decision to remove the couple and their children.
The court heard Mr Zoumbas – neither his nor his wife’s first name were given – entered the UK in May 2001 using a French passport, which did not belong to him. His future wife entered illegally in July 2002, they married the following year and had three children.
The couple, who lived in Glasgow, argued they should be allowed to stay under the European Convention on Human Rights, in the interests of their children. However, the court said they could be removed “without serious detriment to their well-being”.
Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “This is absolutely the right decision.
“It’s regrettable that it’s taken so long for a conclusion to be reached.”