Nick Clegg backs 'eminently sensible' EU benefit changes

Nick Clegg Nick Clegg cautioned that any changes must be made in conjunction with other European states

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It is "sensible" to consider further curbs to the benefits EU migrants can claim, the deputy prime minister says.

It comes after Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he was talking to other EU governments about trying to restrict access to welfare.

Nick Clegg told BBC Radio 5 live it was right to insist migrants "jump through hoops" before claiming benefits.

A three-month ban on EU migrants claiming UK out-of-work benefits came into force earlier this month.

The ban came after restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK were eased at the beginning of the year, prompting the debate surrounding so-called benefit tourism to resurface.

'Committed to country'

Mr Duncan Smith said the UK, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland wanted to change EU law.

He told the Sunday Times there was "a growing groundswell of concern about the [immigration] issue" and Britain was "right in the middle of a large group of nations saying enough is enough".

He said he had been working with the other countries to bring pressure on Brussels to allow individual EU member countries to make their own rules stricter.

Mr Duncan Smith said the UK should require migrants to demonstrate they were "committed to the country" and they were "contributing".

"It could be a year, it could be two years, after that, then we will consider you a resident of the UK and be happy to pay you benefits," he said.

Sources close to Mr Duncan Smith stressed he was expressing an aspiration for the future rather than spelling out a policy.

Latest quarterly migration figures from the Office for National Statistics

Mr Clegg told Pienaar's Politics on BBC Radio 5 live: "That is eminently sensible to say that if we can come to an agreement that says you have to jump through certain hoops before you can claim benefits, having moved to a different European Union country, fine."

But he cautioned changes must be made in conjunction with other European states or there would be a "danger" of tit-for-tat changes made by other governments.

"The idea that somehow we can apply new criteria to Germans, Fins, Dutch, Austrians you name it, but somehow no new conditions would apply to Brits living in other European Union countries is fanciful," he said.

But he said he was not in favour of "pulling up the drawbridge, making us poorer, increasing joblessness and making us less relevant in the world by yanking us out of the European Union".

Labour is "in favour" of government efforts to work with other countries to curb benefits for EU migrants, said shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves.

"If they come up with concrete proposals that are workable, that are practical, that protects our social security system, that protects that principle that you have to pay something in before you get something out, we would support that," she told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News.

'Take back'

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has called for migrants to be barred from receiving benefits until they have been living in the UK for five years, while London Mayor Boris Johnson and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling suggested it should be two.

Start Quote

It goes against people's sense of fairness that the EU want an EU migrant to be treated in exactly the same way as a Brit when it comes to out-of-work benefits”

End Quote Matthew Pollard Executive director, Migration Watch

"There should be an assumption in the way our migration system works that before you move from one country to another, before you can start to take back from that country's social security system, you should have made a significant contribution," Mr Grayling told the BBC's Sunday Politics.

European commissioner Laszlo Andor insisted migrant workers were "net contributors" to the UK economy.

"They take out much less in the form of benefits or welfare services than what they contribute in the form of taxes or contributions to the system," the employment and social affairs commissioner told BBC Radio 4's The World this Weekend programme.

Economics professor Christian Dustmann said there was clear evidence about who was claiming more benefits.

"We have looked at the overall receipt of transfers and benefits, which of course include child benefit, housing benefit and other forms of benefits, and what we find is that migrants from EU countries are 33% less likely than UK natives to claim any form of benefits," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Prof Dustmann said there was "very little concern that immigrants from EU countries are free-riding on the UK's welfare system".

Matthew Pollard, executive director of Migration Watch UK, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls, accepted EU migrants claimed less than UK nationals in out-of-work benefits but said it was "still right for the government to restrict access".

"It goes against people's sense of fairness that the EU want an EU migrant to be treated in exactly the same way as a Brit when it comes to out-of-work benefits. This undermines confidence in the welfare system as well as the EU in general," he told 5 live.

Meanwhile, more than 90 Conservative MPs have written to David Cameron urging him to give Parliament a national veto over current and future EU laws.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    jose taxi driver @406

    Jose, the majority of the Brits residing in your contry add to your economy unlike the majority of immigrants to the UK, The Brits in Spain sell property in UK and buy their own in Spain and have their UK pensions sent to Spain, plus the income you get from British tourists, so what you moaning about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    Business make more money if the are more people in the country they want the door open, but more people means the is less wage to go around for the jobs available, if no-one is paid enough how do they start their own idea's, it makes no difference, business have their way because the people suffer as a result, Nick Clegg's argument a poor one.Individuals have to be paid more to start up companies

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    713. You are being optimistic with 50 years. Perhaps 10 at a stretch.

    It started way before New Labour, read your literature matey and question what you read.

    All European citizens are welcome as far as I am concerned.

  • Comment number 728.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    718 William

    ''m sure Spain would be happy to kick out all the retired Brits that are a drain on their health system.'

    Labour won't want millions of ex-pats returning and seeing the 'culturally enriched' no-go zones created while they were away.

    The Tories (and UKIP) would be rubbing their hands with glee if the Spanish chucked them out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    two years sounds perfect - it needs to be long enough to dissuade the scroungers but fine for those who can come into this country and actually contribute!

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    Repeating a point made by others....if the economic migrants are working and so therefore contributing...and we should be grateful they are here and making us all richer....then what's the fuss about them doing without benefits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    If there is civl unrest in the future it will not be due to immigration but to the ever-widening wealth gap between London and the regions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    718. William B - Wasn't aware that Brits had access to free health care in Spain, but don't let that sway you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    More scapegoating and divide and rule tactics to deflect us from tax evaders, too low top rates and the rental crisis where greedy so and sos leach the young and the benefits system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    @713. Edward_de_Bonehead

    Don't forget Thatcher, who signed The Single European Act!

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    I wonder how many politicians are reading this thread? Even if they are they will toe the party line that means:-

    Labour - More immigration but they say they have learnt
    Lib-Dems - More Immigration
    Consevatives - More Immigration but were say its less
    UKIP - Less Immigration but dont have any other policies apart from out of Europe
    Greens - More immigration

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    Too many politicians claiming they can do something. Truth is that they are telling us what they want us to hear and doing nothing. Mr Clegg is on the side of unlimited immigration. Now he tells us he wants to limit benefits. Sorry, but I don't believe you will. Take action and I will believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    I'm sure Spain would be happy to kick out all the retired Brits that are a drain on their health system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    Right now we're accepting everyone and their mother - and a lot of these low skilled workers are shoving the low paid in this country out the way working longer hours for less - what don't need that sort of labour worker who put UK citizens out of work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    The UK economy is doing badly due a number of poor decisions in the past. We put all our eggs in one basket - the banking sector, we then had to bail them out as we had no choice, now we are relying solely on this sector to revamp the economy. Sadly now that they are all mighty we choose to pick on much weaker subjects such as anti-immigration and anti-EU.
    UK needs to diversify its economy more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    Clegg is a sheep in sheep's clothing

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    So Cleggy's wearing wolf's clothing at last but after the election it'll be back to baaaa baaaa let'em all in, give them anything they want - Clegg Dancing - bit like the Hokey Cokey - do the Cleggy Weggy and you turn around at that's wot it's all about, knees bend, arms raise, shout, shout, shout... donchaluvit!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    I have said it before and I'll say it again, this country is heading for a civil war in circa 50 years that will make the Balkans conflict look like a bun fight at a vicars tea party.
    You will have the clash of civilisations right here on our own doorstep, due mostly to the Labour party's blind incompetence. How I hate Blair, Brown, Mandy, Prescott, Straw et al for dropping us in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    I thought the EEC was good. But no, some Politicians, without a Public Mandate, wanted more. The 'new' EU is a distaster, and an affront to National Identities. Those that joined the EU are 'reaping the rewards' of it now in high unemployment and a fixed monetary system that isn't flexible to different Economies. The EEC was about Trade, the EU is about Political homogenization. It won't work.


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