David Cameron chose a visit to Ford Dagenham to announce his intention to review several different policies aimed at curbing migration to the UK from inside the EU.
Cameron is under pressure on the issue from UKIP’s electoral successes and from some in his own party. But all likely curbs will fall foul of EU rules (one is to cap the number of national insurance numbers issued to EU immigrants with low skills). They will also put him in an open confrontation with Europe’s political leaders.
Other EU countries are much less inclined to restrict freedom of movement for labour in the EU. European capitalists (UK ones included!) want a plentiful and free flowing supply of the right kind of labour. Freedom of movement is therefore one of the cornerstone of EU capitalist economic policy and it is written into the EU’s Treaty.
Cameron’s announcement, together with even firmer promises on an in-out referendum, staves off some Eurosceptic pressure but also a real possibility that the UK might quit the EU altogether. Quitting may not be Cameron’s intention (he wants some sort of loophole or concession) but it is the policy that his party may fall into.
Britain is isolated in Europe on the issue of restricting freedom of movement, but other countries are far-from immigrant friendly. Many take advantage of the EU law which allows them to crack down on unemployed migrants and those claiming benefits.
The French government has says it wants to crack down on “abuses” of benefits.
Last year the Belgium government sent out 2,700 letters of unemployed migrants saying they were an “unreasonable burden” on the Belgian welfare state and had no right to remain. And Germany is about to limit to six months the right of residence for unemployed migrants.