Newspaper article International New York Times

Cameron Vows to Cut Aid for E.U. Migrants

Newspaper article International New York Times

Cameron Vows to Cut Aid for E.U. Migrants

Article excerpt

A dispute between Britain and the European Union threatened to intensify after London pledged to restrict immigrants' access to state benefits ahead of a possible influx of Romanians and Bulgarians.

Responding to political pressure from his right and public fears about an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians early next year, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said Wednesday that he would restrict the right of European Union migrants to claim state benefits, including a ban on housing benefits for new arrivals and sharp limits on unemployment benefits.

Mr. Cameron also said Britain would deport European migrants who were found begging or sleeping rough, barring them from re-entry for 12 months, a clear if unspecific reference to public anxieties, fed by politicians, about Romanian and Bulgarian Roma pouring into Britain.

Mr. Cameron's plan, which was supported by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, brought stinging criticism from Brussels, where the European Union employment commissioner, Laszlo Andor of Hungary, called it an "unfortunate overreaction" that could cause hysteria, and said that the plans "risk presenting the U.K. as the nasty country in the European Union."

Mr. Cameron appears determined to appeal to those in Britain who would like a more distant relationship with the European Union or would like to leave it altogether. His comments are another indication that the issue of immigration, at a time when Britons are worried about joblessness and making ends meet, is the third rail of British politics, wrapped up in larger fears about Britain's place in Europe and the world at large.

The trigger for Mr. Cameron's announcement, which he explained in an essay in The Financial Times on Wednesday, is a change in Union rules as of Jan. 1. On that date, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria will be allowed equal rights to work in any country of the Union, including Britain, without a special permit.

"I know many people are deeply concerned about the impact that could have on our country," Mr. Cameron wrote. "I share those concerns." He blamed the previous Labour government for mismanaging immigration and said he would work with other European Union leaders to make it harder for citizens of low-income countries in the bloc to relocate to wealthier ones and compete for jobs or qualify for state benefits. …

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