Britain says to restrict welfare benefits for new EU migrants

Britain says to restrict welfare benefits for new EU migrants
British Prime Minister David Cameron

LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday he would make it harder for migrants from the European Union to access Britain's welfare system and try to renegotiate the way EU freedom of movement rules are applied.

His intervention, an attempt to address public fears about an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians when EU restrictions on those two countries expire at the start of next year, will cause tensions with the European Commission which has warned Cameron not to introduce any discriminatory measures.

Cameron's Conservative party risks seeing its vote split at European elections next year and at a national election in 2015 by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which opposes "open-door immigration" and he is under pressure to address that threat.

Cameron said in an article in the Financial Times that he planned to change the law so that new EU migrants would have to wait three months before they could access unemployment benefits, saying he shared "concerns" about a possible influx of new migrants.

Newcomers would not be eligible for housing benefits and would lose the right to unemployment benefits after six months unless they could prove they had a realistic chance of finding a job, he added.

He said he also planned to try to renegotiate the way EU freedom of movement rules are applied to make it harder for people from poorer countries in the 28-nation bloc to relocate to richer countries.

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