Post by Focus on Mar 29, 2013 7:40:52 GMT
Britain should be able to block immigration from other EU countries during the current period of high unemployment, according to a group of influential MPs.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, the joint chairmen of the cross party group on balanced migration, Frank Field, a former Labour minister, and Nicholas Soames, a former Conservative minister, say that David Cameron must do more to tackle “the elephant in the room” by restricting European immigration.
The joint chairmen of the cross party group on balanced migration say that David Cameron must do more to tackle “the elephant in the room” by restricting European immigration
The MPs, two of the most influential politicians in the immigration debate, suggest that draconian action should now be considered “during periods of high unemployment” — such as now — to protect low-skilled British workers struggling to compete with foreigners for jobs.
One in five young British workers is currently unemployed, with about one million people aged 18 to 24 out of work.
The MPs say that Britain is still facing an influx of people at an “unsustainable level” despite Coalition action to reduce immigration.
They add that the expected wave of immigration from Bulgaria and Romania — which could lead to 50,000 people a year moving to this country from next year — means that the need to tackle the issue “could not be more stark.”
The proposals of the cross party group on balanced migration are regularly adopted by the Government. The group has praised government action to tackle immigration from Asia, Africa and elsewhere, but believes that the focus must now be on Europe.
“[An] area that needs to be considered is whether EU members should have powers, during periods of high unemployment, to restrict the free movement of labour, at present guaranteed in EU law,” the MPs say.
They add: “We will seek to support the tightening of immigration policies in the year ahead, not least to ensure that the public can have confidence in our immigration system.”
Several European countries have recently imposed some limited immigration controls on EU nationals — controls that are legally permitted by the EU in “exceptional circumstances”. In 2011, Spain won the right to reimpose immigration controls on Romanian migrant workers as unemployment soared in the country.
Last year, in an interview with this newspaper, Theresa May said that the Government was drawing up contingency plans to stem immigration if the economic collapse of a major EU country resulted in an exodus of citizens.
Prime Minister, David Cameron
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister made a speech on immigration that set out plans to reinforce rules restricting access to benefits, the NHS and social housing for European immigrants.
However, Mr Cameron disappointed many by ruling out more far-reaching restrictions, and the measures were criticized for having an apparently small potential impact.
Mr Field and Mr Soames say that the speech sent an important message that should now be built upon.
“Although Mr Cameron was criticized on the basis that very few migrants would be affected by his new proposals, this misses the point,” the MPs write. “His purpose, instead, was to ensure that future migrants (including EU nationals) are deterred from coming here to seek benefits and services. “His proposals on changing the entitlement rules for benefits, social housing and the NHS are a welcome first step. It is right in principle that access to services should be granted on the basis of contribution, and indeed the cross party group has been active in raising these three issues for some time, most recently calling for an entitlement card to access NHS services to replace the current system whereby anyone can access the NHS after being here for 24 hours.”
In today’s article, Mr Field and Mr Soames also confront suggestions that any further crackdown on immigration would undermine economic growth.
They write: “We yield to no one in our desire to ensure that immigration control does not impede the economic recovery on which so much else depends. We have been forthright in our view that businesses must be able to bring in the talent it needs, and are campaigning to make the process simpler and swifter.”
European immigration currently accounts for about a third of net migration — which is currently running at about 160,000 people a year.