UK to push EU for stronger immigration powers

  • 01/02/2016
British Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters)

By William James

British Prime Minister David Cameron will demand stronger powers to curb immigration from the European Union when he meets European Council president Donald Tusk later on Sunday (local time), a senior British government source says.

Mr Cameron will insist that a proposed "emergency brake" to deny benefit payments to working migrants needs significant strengthening, and will argue it must be triggered immediately after Britain's referendum on EU membership, the source said.

Mr Cameron has promised to reform Britain's ties to the EU and hold a public vote on EU membership before the end of 2017. He is hopeful of reaching a reform deal at a summit next month, with a view to holding the referendum as early as possible.

Reuters reported on Thursday that the EU was offering the emergency brake for up to four years as an alternative to Mr Cameron's proposal to bar EU immigrants from in-work benefits for at least their first four years in Britain.

The prime minister, who wants Britain to stay in a reformed EU but has not ruled out campaigning for an exit if he doesn't get what he wants, will meet with Mr Tusk later on Sunday to discuss how such a brake could work.

But Mr Cameron believes the EU's counter offer should be applicable for as long as is necessary to solve the underlying problem and only be treated as a stop-gap measure before a permanent mechanism can be established, the source said.

Finding a way to curb migration has proved to be the most troublesome element of Mr Cameron's renegotiation, which also seeks to address voter concerns over competitiveness and sovereignty.

Leaders of several of the EU's 28 member countries have said they would block any measure that discriminated against their citizens or undermined the core EU principle of free movement of people.