EU immigration in the firing line

08 Oct 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Migrants from the European Union have come under the firing line as Theresa May is reportedly considering curbing the rights of workers coming to Britain from the EU.

The Home Secretary is thought to be examining the possibility of restricting access to the country for the dependants of EU citizens, as well as further curbs on access to benefits. Such a decision to reassess the EU's policy for the free movement of workers is somewhat radical given the concept's status as one of the founding pillar's of the EU.

Ms May, however, has suggested that the reforms are necessary due to the fact that previous European court of justice judgements have come close to redefining the free movement as being available to citizens, rather than just workers.

So far the Conservative-led coalition has focused on lowering the number of migrant workers coming to the country on UK work permits from outside the EU. However, as difficult economic conditions continue and Britain's job market fails to return to growth, it appears that migrants from within the EU are also being targeted. There is, however, there is an obvious risk that UK citizens living abroad will be hit with reprisals, particularly the strong expat communities in Spain and France.

Prime minister David Cameron has also expressed some desire to distance the UK from the EU's immigration agreements. Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Cameron stated: "People in Europe know what I mean what I say … they know I'm capable of saying no."

There are also longer-term plans to introduce a two-tier EU budget, which Mr Cameron is backing. The plans would see single-currency member states contribute more than those who have maintained their own currency.

These announcements form part of a government review of all EU competences in preparation for negotiations with the EU that could lead to a referendum or an endorsement at an election – although the prime minister refused to be drawn on a date for such a referendum.