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 634.

    Another step towards the UK Third Reich. Have you read your history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    10. the6ftmoose
    Why should immigrants get ANY benefits if they haven't paid any UK tax?

    Totally agree and by the same token young people shouldn't receive any benefits or unpaid health treatment if they haven't worked since leaving school. After all for every taxpayer the treasury, over the years, has put by some tax in their own personalised fund to pay for their benefits/pensions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    It's all very well going on about an economic benefit from immigration but an economic model that relies on a continually growing population is so clearly flawed that anyone who supports it is very dangerously short-termist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    The politicians in hand with media enjoy themselves giving the crowds 'panem and circensus' (bread and circus).There is no political will or desire in implementing ID cards for people currently living in the UK! It could help control not only immigration, but help to identify: welfare abusers, criminals, tax avoiders and control the access to NHS and jobs. NHS and NI cards would be redundant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    When crime increases & doorways in towns are filled with beggars holding drugged babies to tug at our heartstrings, how will our government handle it?
    With kid gloves of course rather than acknowledging that they have chosen to import a huge social problem from mainland Europe.
    Aren't there enough social issues in this country already that are not being dealt with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    How on earth is 144 an editors pick. The poster is a troll, he trolls HYS threads looking for the attention his sad life lacks.

    The BBC should be banning these idiots not giving them the attention they crave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    Davey Trasker @ 612:

    I was responding to Mega Awesume Pooster @ 144.
    Note the quotation marks.

    Please read my post @ 600 again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    It would be great if we had an influx of professionaly qualified migrants ready to fill the skills gaps but sadly we all know that there are plenty of other countries with better opportunities than the UK. Cuts in public expenditure plus a projected flood of non contributors means we need to start treating immigration seriously before our infrastructure is completely overwhelmed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    @602 It isn't some kind of myth that some immigrants abuse the benefit system - why is xenophobic to point this out? Why should they do it when benefits are for those who live here, and have contributed?

    Furthermore, hilarious to see people saying how we must stop immigration, immigration is bad, overcrowding etc - but then slate UKIP. You can't complain about the problem then mock the answer!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    Could someone from the UK border agency answer this simple question , if the restrictions on Rumanians and Bulgarians are not lifted until 1st January why do we already have thousands living and working in this country ? mostly may I say in low skilled and menial jobs . What happened to the points system which we were all told would stop low skilled workers coming answers please UKBA !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    Just now
    Given this discussion is about EU migration and rules for EU citizens, why would you discuss non EU immigration?Unless of course you count them all as foreigners who shouldn't be here?
    I think the estimate was 8,000 in a year,no power stations required, probably in the south east,does it matter who employs them?
    still waiting for a cogent question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.


    £16 billion is a drop in the ocean when it comes to paying for the NHS, schools, road maintenance etc.

    Bearing in mind it costs approx £3000 per second to run just the NHS they aren't paying enough to cover the additional services provided. Then add in schools, fire and police services and council services and you have a small country with social problems and UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    Nothing is ever solved until you get to the Libya to Syria situation. Then the unwelcome elements run away to someone else's country, or home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    Isn't the bigger issue still being ignored?

    Why do so many want to flock here in the first place?

    Its not for the weather, or abundance of jobs. They choose to bypass many other western countries because of our over generous welfare system.

    Tackle the cause. The welfare state should be a fall back for tax payers, not a way of life. It is feeding the national debt and population increase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    By all means if you are qualified and we require services that you are able to provide then by all means I'd welcome you with open arms! But if you have no skills and want to lounge on our benefits then leave - you are not needed or wanted!
    I do know there are those who want to wave the flag of "come and share our already dwindling resources" but its wrong and should not be accepted!

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    Argument that if all immigrants have to go all expats have to return
    Would result in a drop in the UK's population
    13% uk pop, not born here. = 8.2m 600k of them claiming welfare
    Ex pats abroad 4.5m 900k pensioners
    Yet an increase in our skills base.
    Most expats were/are professionals
    Don't want to stop immigration, just the ease in which it is accomplished
    We do need controlled immigration

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    All this measure will do is to ensure that business will get the cheap labour that they and their pals in Govt crave.
    It won't stop the immigration, it will just mean the jobs remain extremely low paid and as such not an option for the Average British family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    If someone contributes by paying NI then they should have the same rights as anyone else paying NI.

    On the other hand perhaps unfunded benefits paid to foreign EU nationals should be paid direct via the EU who would then bill the appropriate country of origin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    If you are uneducated in Bulgaria or Romania, you will be lucky to earn $100 a month. Also, you will not have had access to any medical care. So, move to Britain, with your wife and extended family, and you will get child benefit, DLA, housing benefit and, in 3 months, job seeker allowance. All your medical problems will also be addressed. Standby for 100's of 1000s and full A&Es!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    Plans are afoot after by Mr C.
    A.Build a massive wall round britian
    B.Bung up channnel tunnel.
    C.Shut all airports except for those in power.
    D Internet to go,we shall have our own Anglonet
    E Workers co-ops to be set up in the North growing cabbages etc
    F Holiday parks to be set up nr every major town
    G passports to be disbanded
    sounds jolly fun dont you think????????????


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