Leaked UK government report proposes cap on EU immigration

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A report prepared for the UK's Home Office has suggested the imposition of an annual 75,000 cap on immigration from the EU to the UK. The proposal would help the UK government move closer to achieving its goal of reducing annual net immigration to below 100,000 every year. The report was obtained by journalists on The Sunday Times newspaper and revealed on Sunday 15th December 2013.

The report contained suggestions for ways in which the UK could limit immigration to the UK from within the EU. Among those suggestions were

  • Allowing skilled workers with job offers in the UK to come to the UK to work in the same way that non-EU workers with job offers can currently come to the UK to work with Tier 2 (General) skilled worker visas
  • Allowing low-skilled workers to come to the UK providing that they had job offers in a position listed on a 'Shortage Occupations List'. Many countries use such lists to limit immigration. A list is created which contains any job or profession where there is a shortage of skilled operatives currently eligible to work. People skilled in one of the trades/jobs on the list would be issued a visa
  • Creating a 'national preference' for UK-settled workers which would give UK nationals and those currently legally settled in the UK first preference for any job.
  • Limiting the movement of workers from poorer EU countries until their GDP is 75% of that of the UK

Changes would create storm in EU

If any of the above provisions were introduced it would be likely to create a major political storm within the EU. The freedom of movement of labour is, as UK Prime Minister David Cameron has admitted publicly, a central tenet of the EU.

The European commissioner for Labour, Laszlo Andor has locked horns with UK politicians on several occasions recently, criticising the negative tone of the debate on immigration from within the EU to the UK. He has hinted that the UK could be taken to court if it takes steps to limit the rights to benefits of EU immigrants in the UK.

On Tuesday 17th December, the UK's Home Secretary Theresa May MP told journalists that she wanted Mr Cameron to include a limit on the number of immigrants coming to the UK from the EU in his talks with the EU in 2015.

UK will 'renegotiate terms of membership'

Mr Cameron has said that he intends to renegotiate the UK's terms of membership of the EU if re-elected in 2015. Mrs May refused to discuss the leaked document with the BBC when being interviewed on Radio 4's Today breakfast programme but she confirmed that she was considering limiting immigration from within the EU to the UK. 'This is something I've been talking about with my opposite numbers; interior ministers in other countries within the European Union, for some time now'.

She continued 'There is growing concern not just here in the UK but elsewhere too, about the abuse of free movement, about the way in which people can move freely across Europe, sometimes for access to benefits'.

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