British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced today (29 July) that jobless EU migrants and those with children will have their benefits slashed in half to stop them milking Britain’s welfare system. In what is widely seen as the latest in a series of British measures aimed at addressing voters’ concerns over immigration, writing in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cameron outlined new welfare rules to cut European migrants’ access to social security payments. The Prime Minister also pointed out that starting from November this year migrants coming to the UK from other EU countries in search of work would be entitled to claim unemployment and child benefits for three months, effectively cutting the previous standard six months by half.
Immigration is clearly one of the biggest concerns among the UK voters who will cast their votes in a national election in 2015, fuelling a rise in Eurosceptic sentiment which has also helped the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) draw voters away from Cameron’s Conservatives. Thus, Cameron’s latest move should be seen in this context, as an attempt to stop voters defecting from his party to the competing political groups. Cameron has also declared his intention to cut net migration and has specifically targeted those migrants who he says come to Britain solely to tap its benefit system by “making sure people come for the right reasons – which has meant addressing the magnetic pull of Britain’s benefits system.” Apart from the UKIP, also the opposition Labor Party has openly criticized Cameron for not doing enough to stop the influx of low-skilled migrants particularly from the new, post-communist EU member states whom it accused of driving UK wages down. The soaring Eurosceptic sentiment has also prompted Cameron to promise to renegotiate the UK’s ties with the EU if he is re-elected, and then put the country’s continuing membership to a public vote in 2017.