Britain’s debate on whether to remain in the European Union is resulting in lies and national resentment about immigration, according to the President of the European Parliament.
Martin Schulz spoke out after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron in London for talks about the UK’s relationship with the EU.
Mr Schulz did not directly criticise the Prime Minister, but he said: "Outright lies [are] told. What makes me sad and angry in all this debate is the undertone of national resentment. People are used as scapegoats."
He said that people in both the UK and other European nations were trying to build new barriers between countries. And he said that certain elements were to blame for trying to create panic about "so-called benefit tourists from Romania and Bulgaria wanting to plunder the social systems of the host countries".
Mr Cameron’s attempts to reduce the number of migrants settling in the UK include banning new arrivals from claiming welfare benefits for four years. He is understood to see this as an “absolute requirement” in the new relationship he wants to form with the EU.
The UK is not alone in attempting to reduce immigration. Other EU nations including Denmark have seen support grow for anti-immigration political parties, such as the Danish People’s Party, which did well in the country’s recent elections. It echoes the situation in the UK, where the anti-immigration UKIP received millions of votes, but only one MP, in the May General Election.
Hungary is also aiming to reduce the number of immigrants coming to the country from Africa and the Middle East. It is now planning to put a fence on its border with neighbouring Serbia to tackle the issue.