EU Referendum

Cameron told 4-year benefits ban for EU migrants will have almost NO impact on immigration

DAVID CAMERON’s bid to reform Britain’s membership of the European Union has suffered a new blow today as he was told his much-vaunted crackdown on migrants’ benefits will have almost NO impact on slowing immigration.

David CameronGETTY
David Cameron has been told his EU reforms will have little impact on immigration

The Prime Minister is currently struggling to convince fellow EU leaders to back his call for a four-year ban on EU migrants claiming in-work benefits or social housing in the UK.European Council president Donald Tusk yesterday all but ruled out agreeing to a deal, telling Downing Street there is “no consensus” for Mr Cameron’s changes among other EU member states amid “substantial political differences”.

And, even if the Prime Minister does eventually win his battle with Brussels, he was today told the four-year ban is “unlikely to have a huge impact” on reducing levels of immigration to Britain.
Last month, annual net migration was revealed to have reached a new record high of 336,000, including 180,000 people from the EU.The Prime Minister is hoping his renegotiation of Britain’s ties with Brussels will help reduce the number of EU nationals moving to the UK under the 28-member bloc’s freedom of movement rules.

But economist Sir Stephen Nickell, a senior member of the independent Office for BudgetResponsibility (OBR), today told MPs a four-year benefits ban would achieve little.

Appearing before the House of Common’s Treasury select committee, he said: “Changing the benefit rules for EU migration so that they become more difficult to obtain – you are asking me what impact that is likely to have.

“In my opinion: not much.”

European Commission president Donald TuskGETTY

European Commission president Donald Tusk all but ruled out a deal yesterday

Asked if he could expand, he said: “I have no idea because I have not investigated it.”I am prepared to say that any changes to benefit rules are unlikely to have a huge impact on migration flows.

“But to go further and start trying to analyse the actual consequences is not within our remit.”

Sir Stephen, a former member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, suggested Britain’s booming economy was a bigger attraction than welfare payments for EU migrants.

He said there was “quite a lot of evidence that the differential in job opportunities, the differential in pay, is a significant factor in migration flows … around the world”.


Sir Stephen Nickell said a four-year ban is ‘unlikely to have a huge impact’

Any changes to benefit rules are unlikely to have a huge impact on migration flows.

Sir Stephen Nickell

Eurosceptic groups said Sir Stephen’s comments were a clear signal Mr Cameron’s EU reforms will achieve little.Stephen Parkinson, director of the Vote Leave campaign who are calling on British voters to back a UK’s exit from the EU at the upcoming in/out referendum, said: “The Chancellor’s own independent experts have delivered a damning verdict on the Government’s plans to try to negotiate a deal which will limit EU migration.

“People want to see the UK taking back control of our borders, but experts from the OBR have today confirmed that ‘any changes to benefits are unlikely to have a huge impact on migration flows’.

“The Government is trying to manufacture a row with the EU to make its demands look more significant than they are – but the only way to get real change and to take back control is to Vote Leave.”

Earlier today, Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith insisted the Prime Minister still has a chance of winning a deal on EU benefit tourism.
The Work and Pensions Secretary claimed ministers from countries such as Germany and France secretly agreed there is “something fundamentally wrong” about migrants  being able to claim benefits immediately on arrival in a country where they have made no contribution to the welfare system.He said: “As usual, it is the British who have to make the case, but behind closed doors they all agree it is an issue.”

Despite Mr Tusk’s disheartening response yesterday, the former Conservative leader said he remained “upbeat” of the Government securing its EU renegotiation demands.

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