David Cameron Tightens U.K. Immigration Laws, Closing Great Britain Off From Thousands Of Migrants
Just a week after President Obama introduced his executive action to shield several million undocumented U.S. immigrants, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he was tightening U.K. immigration laws as a way to reduce the overwhelming number of European migrants. In doing so, the prime minister will completely overhaul the United Kingdom's benefits system, which includes numerous social programs like welfare and health care. Cameron's announcement comes just a day after the U.K. government released data revealing an uptick in immigrants from European Union countries — particularly former communist nations — over the last year. It also sets the scene for talks between the EU and the United Kingdom, the latter of whom is "at risk" for leaving the union, Cameron said.
Speaking from central England, Cameron made it clear that, while Great Britain values "openness," it "needs to be controlled. It needs to be fair." The prime minister was largely speaking to the social benefits given to EU immigrants, and those U.K. communities struggling with providing these benefits to a large population of foreigners.
Under his new rules, immigrants from European Union countries will have to secure a job before moving to the United Kingdom. Immigrants who arrive in the United Kingdom but haven't found work in six months will be forced to leave.
And, for those who do find jobs, the social benefits won't kick in until after four years of living and working in Great Britain. This is a major change to the U.K. benefits system, which previously provided housing assistance and other government services, such as welfare and out-of-work payments, to immigrant jobseekers looking for work in the United Kingdom. EU jobseekers also won't be able to claim tax credits until after four years.
The prime minister said these new reforms would give less incentive to low-skilled or unskilled EU immigrants looking for work in the United Kingdom. Cameron added that his new reforms now gives the United Kingdom " the toughest system on welfare for EU migrants anywhere in Europe:"
This government inherited an indefensible system where the State - our taxpayers - paid EU jobseekers to look for work indefinitely and even paid their rent while they did so. In total that meant the British taxpayer was supporting a typical EU jobseeker with £600 a month. ... At the moment 40 percent of those coming to work in the UK do not have a job offer when they arrive - the highest proportion in the EU. Many of these will no longer come. EU jobseekers who don't pay in will no longer get anything out. And those who do come will no longer be able to stay if they can't find work.
According to U.K. statistics, net migration to Great Britain soared to 260,000 between June 2013 and June 2014 — an increase of 78,00 from the previous year. Cameron said he would like to reduce immigration to less than 100,000 by next May.
U.K. Immigration Minister James Brokenshire told The Guardian on Thursday that the government has been successful in cracking down on immigration from outside the EU nations over the last several years:
Uncontrolled, mass immigration makes it difficult to maintain social cohesion, puts pressure on public services and forces down wages. This government has shut nearly 800 bogus colleges, slashed 45,000 visas from the further education route and cut family visas by nearly a third since it came to power – meaning there are 50,000 fewer migrants coming to the country from outside the EU than there were in 2010.
Cameron reiterated these points in his speech Friday. His new plan now turns to EU citizens, who he claims are abusing "freedom of movement" rule within the union (the EU's rule allows an unlimited number of EU citizens to live in the United Kingdom).
Because of EU rules, Cameron stopped short of placing a cap on immigration on Friday — though many critics will undoubtedly believe that the prime minister didn't go far enough. Like the United States, immigration has been a contentious issue in the United Kingdom, setting up a battle between Great Britain and the EU, the latter of which promises open movement between its members.
Cameron underscored on Friday that his immigration plan will put pressure on the EU to finally discuss immigration reform. And although there are calls from Britons for Great Britain to leave the union, Cameron said that European leaders need to be cautious going forward:
Across the European Union we are seeing the frustrations of our citizens, demonstrated in the results of the European Elections. Leadership means dealing with those frustrations, not turning a deaf ear to them. And we have a duty to act on them, to restore the democratic legitimacy of the EU. So I say to our friends in Europe. It's time we talked about this properly. And a conversation cannot begin with the word "no."
As for Britons, Cameron said they can't rush into leaving the EU, even though "of course we would survive." In thinking about the long-term goals and livelihood of Great Britain, he said:
We would lose the automatic right for the 1.3 million British citizens who today are living and working elsewhere in Europe to do so. That is something we would want to think carefully about giving up.
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