Depuis le 1er janvier 2014, le marché du travail britannique est entièrement ouvert aux Roumains et aux Bulgares. Cette perspective avait entraîné, en novembre dernier, une réaction ferme de la part du premier ministre David Cameron, qui subit la pression des eurosceptiques.
“We will change the rules so that nobody can come to this country and demand social benefits immediately”, David Cameron explained on the 27th of November. Since January 1st 2014, Europeans who settle in the United Kingdom have to wait for three months before they can ask for out-of-work benefits and they will lose it after six months unless they can prove they have a “genuine prospect of employment”.
Newcomers won’t be able to request rent allowances immediately, and the required wage to be eligible for benefits will be revised. « If people are not here to work – if they are begging or sleeping rough – they will be removed », David Cameron said. « These are sensible and reasonable reforms to ensure that the right to work does not automatically mean the right to claim », Nick Clegg added.
David Cameron wants to question the freedom of circulation in the EU. « It is time for a new settlement which recognizes that free movement is a central principle of the EU, but it cannot be a completely unqualified one», he claimed. He resents the fact that since January 1st 2014 Romanians and Bulgarians have been free to look for work in the United Kingdom. “The EU needs to change if it is to regain the trust of its peoples.”, he wrote.
Brussels criticized these proposals harshly and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, in charge of EU internal affairs, retorted that « the freedom of movement for citizens in Europe is a fundamental right which the Commission defends ». The European Commissioner for Employment, Laszlo Andor, accused the Prime Minister of not telling the truth and generating “hysteria”.
One in three immigrants is a European citizen. They bring more to the country than what they cost. Indeed, from 2001 to 2011, they paid £26.5 billion in taxes in Britain. However, they are threatened by the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a party whose influence is growing and that could win the European elections in May 2014.
David Cameron, put under pressure by Eurosceptics, promised that he would reduce the number of immigrants below 100,000 before 2015, the year of the next legislative election. His reelection will depend largely upon a political victory on this subject. He is accused of “panicking” after an amendment to the immigration bill proposed by 45 MPs of his party who demand the extension of the current limitations until the end of 2018.
Clara DOMINIQUE & Astrid MEZIERE