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UK now frowns at immigration from EU

After imposing new immigration curbs on Indian and other non-EU citizens after coming to power in 2010, the David Cameron government on Friday announced a raft of measures to clamp down on the increasing numbers of EU citizens moving to Britain.

world Updated: Nov 28, 2014 21:48 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

After imposing new immigration curbs on Indian and other non-EU citizens after coming to power in 2010, the David Cameron government on Friday announced a raft of measures to clamp down on the increasing numbers of EU citizens moving to Britain.

As the colour of concern over immigration changes from brown and black to white, Cameron sought to ratchet up the rhetoric before the May 2015 elections to counter the growing appeal of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) with its anti-Europe appeal that coalesces into an anti-immigration position.

In a major speech telecast live, Cameron set out plans for new curbs on migrants from within the EU, who have rights to move any of the member-states. Concern has risen in Britain over the migration of thousands of people this year, particularly from Romania and Bulgaria, changing the demographics in some areas and putting pressure on local services.

Curbs announced since 2010 have already led to reduced immigration from India, particularly leading to a major drop in the number of Indian students.

Acknowledging that Britain's benefits system - under which the state extends a range of financial and other benefits to those in need - had become a magnet for people from less prosperous countries in the EU, Cameron said the new curbs meant that they will have to meet tougher conditions and wait longer before they become eligible for the benefits.

Critics were quick to point out that Cameron's measures could not be implemented unless they were agreed upon by the European Commission, and to a large extent went against the fundamental idea behind the EU: the right to move, live and work in any member-state.

In the carefully balanced speech, Cameron reiterated that immigration had benefited Britain, and recalled the achievements of the thousands of people of Indian and Asian origin who had migrated here from East Africa in the early 1970s.

Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU in 2017 if his party came to power next year. Seeking to upstage the UKIP that wants Britain to pull out of the EU, Cameron said: "If our concerns fall on deaf ears and we cannot put our relationship with the EU on a better footing, then of course I rule nothing out. If I fail, I am absolutely clear, nothing, and I mean nothing, will be ruled out."