Prime Minister David Cameron's suggestion that the government might restrict UK immigration from the European Union has been strongly rejected by businesses.
Cameron suggested that Britain might look into controlling immigration levels from within the EU by introducing a cap on national insurance numbers. The plans would limit the number of low-skilled immigrants entering the country, should they go ahead, by giving new arrivals from Europe a temporary insurance number which would prevent them from registering to work and claim benefits indefinitely.
However, businesses and the European Commission have rejected the idea, making it unlikely to go ahead if the status quo is maintained in terms of the UK's union membership. Responding to Mr Cameron today, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said that the move would break the “essential” principle of the union, which is that of free movement.
Meanwhile, businesses and industry groups within the UK have also expressed their disapproval of the plans. Katja Hall, deputy director-general of the CBI, said: “Businesses are clear they want the free movement of workers within the EU to stay. It boosts the attraction of investing in the UK, creates jobs and offers firms here real benefits in working with our biggest trading partners.
“Businesses recognise this is a sensitive issue but capping EU immigration is not the answer to the living standards challenge in the UK. The Government and businesses should be looking at how best to help people get the right skills, training and support they need to get on in work.”
She concluded that the best way to secure a strong economic future for Britain is to remain within a “reformed EU”. Ms Hall added: “The Single Market anchors our trade at home and is the launchpad for us to break into new growth markets outside Europe.”