EU Referendum

British expats could be banned from claiming tax credits for four years after they return under rule change designed to stop migrants getting benefits

  • David Cameron initially proposed the in-work benefits ban for EU migrants
  • Sparked outrage and claims of discrimination against Eastern Europeans
  • As a compromise Cameron is considering also applying the ban to Britons
  • He hopes to get agreement for renegotiation deal at EU Council in February

The Prime Minister is considering whether to apply a four-year tax credits ban to British expats who have relocated abroad for four years or more, when they return to the UK.

It could come as part of a compromise deal Mr Cameron is negotiating with fellow EU leaders.

But those from the Visegrad countries, of Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, are proving difficult to convince.

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David Cameron, pictured at his press conference with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban on January 7, is considering applying a four-year tax credits ban on British expats after Eastern European countries claimed he was being discriminatory

 Mr Cameron initially proposed the four-year in-work benefits ban for migrants arriving in the UK from other EU countries.

However, the proposal sparked outrage in Hungary, with the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban insisting that Mr Cameron was discriminating against EU migrants.

‘For us it is very important that we are not considered as migrants,’ he said this week. ‘Words matter here. Hungarian is a very culturally defined nation and language. It plays a very important role in our politics.

 ‘So we would like to make it quite clear that we are not migrants into the UK. We are citizens of a state that belongs to the EU who can take jobs anywhere freely within the EU.

‘So we do not want to go to the UK and take away something from them. We do not want to be parasites… It is very important that those Hungarians who are working well and contribute to the British economy should get respect and should not suffer discrimination.

‘Discrimination is not something we can accept.’

To appease the Visegrad countries’ claims of discrimination, Mr Cameron is considering a compromise which would see the same rules applied to British citizens.

The ban would only apply to new arrivals in the UK from other EU countries – potentially including British citizens who have lived abroad for four years or more.

On a trip to Hungary this week, Mr Cameron also met with the Hungarian President Janos Ader. Mr Cameron is considering applying the same in-work benefits ban to UK citizens who relocate abroad for more than four years, on their return to the UK - in an attempt to appease other EU member states

 Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, pictured right on January 8 alongside Defence Secretary Michael Fallon Japanese escort ship Izumo, said he cannot 'envisage' campaigning against the Prime Minister in the referendum

 But the suggestion has proved controversial with British expats, who face missing out on four years’ of tax credits.

The suggested ban wouldn’t apply to EU migrants who have already settled in the UK.

Mr Cameron’s suggestion to lock EU migrants out of in-work benefits for four years is the most controversial of his four EU renegotiation proposals.

The others are: to increase competitiveness across the EU; to better insulate EU countries which have their own currency from the Eurozone; and to increase the sovereignty of national parliaments.

The Prime Minister hopes to get an agreement for his renegotiation deal at the EU Council in February.

 David Cameron says he ‘won’t rule anything out’ in EU vote


Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond today said he would find it hard to ‘envisage’ campaigning against David Cameron in the referendum.

Mr Hammond, who is generally considered a eurosceptic, told the Today programme he did not expect to take advantage of Mr Cameron’s decision to allow ministers to take their own view.

Several cabinet members were reportedly ready to quit rather than stick to a pro-EU line mandated by No 10.

Mr Hammond said: ‘Our first challenge is to get the right deal and we are making good progress on that.

‘It is a painstaking task because we have got 27 partners to bring along with us, but we are making progress.

‘Then the Government will make a decision about whether it can make a recommendation to the British people on the back of that deal to support Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

‘The Prime Minister has made clear individual ministers will be free to express their views.’

He added: ‘I can’t envisage us negotiating a deal the Prime Minister thinks is good enough to recommend to the British people and which I feel I want to campaign against.’ 

 ‘I’ve put on the table the four-year proposal and that proposal remains on the table,’ he said.

‘It won’t come off the table unless something equally important is put in its place.

‘I’m open to listening to ideas. I’m not going to give you a running commentary on those ideas but I’m very clear about the aim that we need to achieve here.’

There is an increasing sentiment in Downing Street that Mr Cameron is on the way to creating a deal with EU leaders that would enable him to recommend voting to stay in the EU.

He has pledged to have an in-out referendum on the EU before the end of 2017, but it is widely expected to be called for this summer.

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