Curbs on EU benefits to come into force on 1 January

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New rules on how long EU jobseekers will have to wait to claim benefits are to be brought in early, No 10 has said.

The change to a three-month wait before EU citizens can apply for UK out-of-work benefits is being rushed through Parliament to start on 1 January.

It coincides with the date people from both Romania and Bulgaria will be able to work in the UK without restrictions.

David Cameron said the move sent a "clear message", but Labour said it had been left to the "very last minute".

'Phantom measures'

But critics say EU rules already mean residents of one country are not expected to claim benefits in another for their first three months there.

Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said the government was bringing in "phantom measures to combat a phantom problem".

Measures to restrict so-called benefit tourism - backed by the Liberal Democrats - were announced last month amid concerns about a possible influx of Romanians and Bulgarians when they gain full rights to work in the UK at the start of 2014.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith: "We are saying to people, benefit tourism is out"

It is not known how many will come. There are currently more than 100,000 working in the country.

Under regulations being tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, migrants from all EU states will have to wait for three months before applying for Jobseeker's Allowance and other out-of-work benefits.

'Direct action'

When the new restriction was announced, Downing Street said it was unlikely it would be in place in time for the 1 January deadline - when transitional controls on Bulgaria and Romanian workers in place since 2007 expire.

Start Quote

I want to send the clear message that whilst Britain is very much open for business, we will not welcome people who don't want to contribute”

End Quote David Cameron

But it is now being pushed through Parliament before it rises for the Christmas recess on Thursday to enable that to happen.

Mr Cameron said the government was acting on public concerns that some migrants from across the EU were coming to the UK to take advantage of the welfare system and public services like the NHS.

"As part of our long-term plan for the economy, we are taking direct action to fix the welfare and immigration systems so we will end the something-for-nothing culture and deliver for people who play by the rules," he said.

"Accelerating the start of these new restrictions will make the UK a less attractive place for EU migrants who want to come here and try to live off the state.

"I want to send the clear message that, whilst Britain is very much open for business, we will not welcome people who don't want to contribute."


EU rules allow benefit recipients to receive payments from their home country for three months when they move.

Those wishing to do so have to fill out a form authorising the "export" of their benefits. However those staying longer than three months in another country without finding a job or getting an extension will lose their entitlements.

Mr Portes told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the government had not released figures showing the number of immigrants claiming UK benefits during their first three months in the country.

He said: "It's possible it will undermine their case or that they're not interested - that they don't really care if the policy has an impact at all and they just want something to announce. It's one or the other."

Mr Portes also said: "It's a bit of a mystery. A number of people have described these measures as phantom measures to combat a phantom problem. That seems to me to be about right."

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she had called for the changes to be put in place nine months ago but they were being introduced in a "chaotic" fashion.

Graphic: Foreign-born workers in the UK, by country of birth

"David Cameron has left it until the very last minute to squeeze this change in," she said.

Other changes announced by the prime minister last month included:

  • Only those who can provide compelling evidence that they have a genuine chance of finding work being allowed to continue claiming benefits after six months.
  • Beefing up the "habitual residence" eligibility test for claimants
  • Preventing people who have been removed for begging or sleeping rough from returning for 12 months
  • Increasing fines for businesses found not to be paying the national minimum wage

UK ministers have declined to say how many people they expect to come to the UK following the lifting of controls but Bulgarian officials say they expect about 8,000 of their citizens to make the move every year.

Shadow immigration minster David Hanson says the government needs to "do more" to tackle issues with migrant workers

Pressure group MigrationWatch UK says the figure will be much higher and it expects 50,000 people to come from Bulgaria and Romania each year for the next five years.

Bulgarians and Romanians in self-employed jobs and those employed in certain sectors such as agriculture and food manufacturing have been able to live and work in the UK for the past six years.

Transitional arrangements in other EU countries will also come to an end on 1 January.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage urged Mr Cameron to bring up the issue at this week's Brussels summit of EU leaders, calling it the "last chance for the prime minister to act on Bulgarian and Romanian immigration into the UK".

He added: "He must tell fellow EU leaders that the UK will not unconditionally open its border to Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January."

A YouGov survey for the Sun newspaper on Wednesday suggested that 42% of people thought it was of "utmost importance" for the prime minister to limit immigration from EU countries.

Some 43% of the more than 2,600 people polled said they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum was held now - 37% said no.

But more than half said they would vote against leaving the EU if Mr Cameron secured a major renegotiation of the UK's relationship with Brussels.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1034.

    If benefits have to be paid let them be paid at the rate of the persons country of origin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1033.

    "Christian Durstmann report " You mean the report which gathered all its evidence based upon the following
    "60,000 households in the UK, The survey
    records respondents’ labour market status and wages, as well as their personal and household
    circumstances, including country of birth and year of arrival in the UK if applicable" How very much like guesswork and easy to manipulate

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    1025. salty

    once again you show yourself up to be ?

    his name is actually

    Christian Dustman not : Christian Durstmann

    I think you better leave it there and enjoy going to bed with that high visibility Traffic Cone on your head keeping those ears warm and the space between free flowing of ozone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    1025: Salty: "if people don't like migration they can leave"

    So you are advocating the displacement of settled peoples? Your opinions are extreme and truly shocking!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    A federal europe? The original treaty Heath signed says that's the idea. Thatcher and Major pushed for EU expansion to the east - which we have - without worrying about freedom of movement changes. These are the people who signed the treaties. Labour signed Lisbon - which allows us to leave if we want. Business LOVES freedom of movement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1029.

    Who said 'Cheap labour' ?
    That's what its all about, kill off the Unions, allow in people who will work for anything their offered, then drive them out when they become inconvenient.
    A bit of a transparent policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

    1010. Jo Anton

    No mention of reverend duncan smythes Work Program as under EU guidelines issued by .gov a claimant on JSA for a specific time is mandated to take part, or loose his/her entitlement to JSA, if he/she is not in the UK, he/she can not thus take part in what is " mandatory " and thus loses his/her entitlement to JSA Benefit

    I assume the other member state stops paying JSA

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    All those who claim that the DWP proves that EU migrants claim less than British conveniently ignore the fact the DWP figures are only (partially) accurate from 2010 onwards, even then the DWP admits it cannot track benefits where no NI is needed (Tax credits/Child Benefit). You could have 100k(s) EU migrants on the dole, using an NI issued prior to 2010 and we wouldn't know

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    If Europeans can claim from their own countries for the first 3 months after they've left (provided they bothered to notify them) Britain should definitely not be providing benefits for that period.
    Are our benefit offices/ officers aware of this?
    The UK 3 months wait should start after the first 3 months is up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1025.

    4 Minutes ago

    The Christian Durstmann report for the home office. But we all know that uk isolation party supporters aren't aware of what goes on in the real world.

    997.Mathew Lemon
    I wouldn't have a limit, if people don't like migration they can leave and the country can get on with being successful without the luddites like you holding us back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1024.

    It is reported that those born in the 70's and 80's will be worse off than their parents. No wonder the way government is behaving- not only are they giving away our money to all and sundry and our jobs to immigrants but they are also allowing our jobs to go East . I pity the future for the young they will find we are overcrowded . fewer jobs and buying a home nigh on impossible due price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    The government are still not dealing with the problem with a long term view. Has the government asked themselves why people travel halfway around the world to come to the UK? The weather? The cuisine? The countless jobs? No, it's the benefits that can be claimed, unchecked & endlessly. Stop that and you might be onto something. That plus zero tolerance to crime and instant removal if they offend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1022.

    The EU doesn't see a problem with any citizen of the EU claiming benefits here in the UK because they want all individual countries to merge into one. No Bulgarians, no Romanians and no British, just Europeans able to live and work (or not) wherever they want.

    I can see why the southern and eastern European countries want this but dare I say the majority of UK residents probably don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1021.

    How about limiting benefits to those that the government provides to our own old age pensioners. I think this might solve all future problems of excessive numbers of immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1020.

    Re your link under "Having a 'right to reside' in the UK". Your child does not have to be in the UK. The UK does not hold nationality for any benefit (though that will change). The only figures DWP can supply are for those who applied for a NI number after 2010. If a Polish citizen got their NI number in 2009 and then claimed benefits, it wouldn't be registered as Polish

  • rate this

    Comment number 1019.

    1010. Jo Anton

    I actually took a peep, very interesting indeed what does it show?
    amongst other things:

    benefits are transferable between member states


    even more reason to be voting UKIP or indeed any party with the gumption to stand up and say.

    " we have seen enough thank you very much and are leaving "

    no wonder its created such a nuisance.

  • Comment number 1018.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1017.

    The whole business of giving away benefits including housing and medical to any immigrants is totally wrong - we have to pay too much tax to support the economy as it is . . When we took holidays abroad even to the EU we were always advised to take out insurance for health etc and that should be compulsory for all visitors. Our Government is totally letting us down these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1016.

    Please can we have Britain back for the British, and just let a few immigrants in to do the jobs we want them to do? No job, no dole just bye bye?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1015.

    "It was the UK who wanted all the former soviet block brought into the EU. A Mrs Thatcher"


    Very much so. They thought it would make federalism impossible, and the whole thing unmanageable. In fact, the East has knuckled down, and if anything is helping in that way by contributing to momentum.

    Even with media help, the Tories are struggling to capitalise here.


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