Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

PM Calls for EU to Limit Benefits for Migrants

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

PM Calls for EU to Limit Benefits for Migrants

Article excerpt

Byline: James Tapsfield and David Hughes Reporters

DAVID Cameron has put restricting benefits for migrants at the heart of his demands for European Union reform as he kicked off a new phase in the renegotiation process.

Setting out four "challenging" goals and insisting a new membership deal must be "legally binding", the Prime Minister said the UK should also be exempted from the commitment to "ever-closer union", get protection from eurozone integration and see improvements in competitiveness.

The intervention, in a speech at the Chatham House think-tank, came as Mr Cameron sent a six-page letter to European Council president Donald Tusk spelling out his renegotiation checklist.

In the letter, he said he hoped to get an agreement at the "earliest possible opportunity" but the "priority is to get the substance right". A European Commission spokeswoman said it would analyse the letter in detail, adding that there appeared to be "some feasible elements, some difficult and some highly problematic".

Admitting that some people would accuse him of seeking too little, Mr Cameron insisted he was asking for what Britain "needs" and that the package had been "carefully designed".

The premier reiterated his determination to secure tougher restrictions on migrants' access to welfare, arguing that 40% of recent European Economic Area migrants were receiving an average of around PS6,000 a year of in-work benefits.

However, Mr Cameron did hint that he may be willing to make concessions on the key issue of a fouryear bar on access to in-work bene-fits and housing.

"We have proposed that people coming to Britain from the EU must live here and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing, and that we should end the practice of sending child benefit overseas," Mr Cameron said. …

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