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 994.

    Just now

    How much 'benefit' and 'health' tourism is there really?

    Why don't you find out for yourself by sitting in your local A&E for an afternoon and listen to the foreigners on their mobiles?

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    962. Ian
    There are a number of British people like myself who had to leave the UK to find work

    Do you mean that you were an immigrant living and working in someone else's country? Immigration works both ways, doesn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    984.Davey Trasker
    Sad but true when I went to the tax office there were some Poles who were going home for two months so they could get all their tax back and see their children with their child benefit maybe the limit of two children should apply in this circumstance as well as the unemployed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    So I take it you don't agree with Switzerland putting EU immigration controls in place? Switzerland which many people hold up as the economic success story of Europe and has decided that too many immigrants are driving up house prices and damaging their economy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    984. Davey Trasker

    'The contributed £16.3 billion net last year!'

    You're getting figures from the book of fantasy. Most studies say immigration is a financial burden on this country.

    I pointed the very same thing out to the Clown ages ago, at least we know he studies facts and figures, to think, the individual is perhaps old enough and has the right to actually Vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    I still don't recall a referendum on joining the EU, do you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    How much 'benefit' and 'health' tourism is there really? The express says £65 million, Hunt says £200 million, the office for national statistics says £8 million. That's health. Benefit, not one Conservative will give a figure. Since they have been collecting national ID's of benefit claimants since 2010, they must know. Cameron and Osborne may be good politicians but they are no statesment

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    "pharmacists, why? do we not know how to teach our own people those skills?"


    We do, but many of our young think that owning the latest e-game or knowing what eyeliner Katie Price uses is more important than getting the education needed to make them receptive to further professional training.

    That's just two examples, among the general crap of which they're full.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    It's about time we also banned all immigration form the former 'colonies'.

    How can this small country with limited resources even think about allowing from the poorer third world (I included nuclear, space race India) from moving here.

    We have no more room. We don't have the infrastructure and the British have have had ENOUGH of our country being changed by immigration. Stop it all NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    983.Mathew Lemon
    Just now

    I thought this was a law for the Bulgarians and Romanians. Even if it were the whole EU, we still aren't expecting 630 million immigrants in the near future. So my comment was a wholly accurate reply to your childish post.

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.


    'The contributed £16.3 billion net last year!'

    You're getting figures from the book of fantasy. Most studies say immigration is a financial burden on this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    salty @ 963 referring to my post @ 935
    "Are we expecting 630m immigrants on Jan 1st or 8000 to get to the state you describe"

    Oh, so you are only talking about those who come on Jan 1st & not the rights of all EU citizens?

    If so, then I aplogise.

    If not, then maybe you could suggest a suitable upper limit?

    Now your remark about homework - it was a bit childish don't you think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    974. DeadMike
    What about my family in Spain? Would they be forced to leave or subject to new taxes?

    Is the Eu stopping the Spanish from demolishing homes bought by Brits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    "what no one has satisafactorily explained is why Bulgarians would come here just to claim benefits when their own system , taking the lower cost of living there into account, is more generous than ours"

    Because it isn't true! Bulgaria has a contributory system where you have to have paid in to get out. Benefits are only paid for a few months and based on previous pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    @ 966. distefano

    If people read the legislation they'd realise that the freedom of movement directive allows the government to do what it is proposing and more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    The news about this is good but typically the government waited to see how the wind blew before acting at the last minute. Our own benefit claimants whether they be low paid or out of work receive relatively small amounts. Meanwhile Millionaire David Cameron and Gideon Osborne still receive a free house as a benefit in kind which they don't pay tax on and get their bills paid. Where's their cut?

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    So the lady on todays BBC news who said - and I quote "that there will be about 8,000 Romanians" wanting to come to the UK hasn't seen the ABOVE chart on Foreign Workers. When there's 141,000 workers ALREADY here from Romanian and Bulgaria, and there are 1000's already here ILLEGALLY. Her, and the BBC's, reputations 'lie' in tatters. Yet still they peddle farcicle statistics in the face of facts..

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    5 Minutes ago
    what no one has satisafactorily explained is why Bulgarians would come here just to claim benefits when their own system , taking the lower cost of living there into account, is more generous than ours
    What rubbish their system is nowhere near as cushty as ours I work with a lot of Bulgarians and not one of them would agree with you

  • Comment number 976.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    no one should get any benefits until they have worked and paid into the system for 5 years, and in that time they should take out medical insurance to cover any hospital or doctor appointments, ok thats that one solved give me the next problem to fix DC


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