Tuesday, October 23, 2012

EU's migrant rules prove the referendum case

So Scotland is to get an independence referendum to be held in 2014.  For people like me, who want a referendum on Britain's (England's?) place in Europe, the wait goes.

But the case for EU withdrawal or radical renegotiation is growing by the day.

Take last week's news that the EU is trying to force the UK government to pay benefits, including pensions, to any EU citizen who applies for them.  The EU wants to stop Britain applying its "habitual resident test" to ensure that foreign claimants are genuinely settled in the UK and have paid taxes here.

I think you would be hard-pressed to find more than 2% of the British electorate who would support paying benefits out to foreigners who haven't contributed anything to the country beforehand.  But our democratically-elected government is being forced to do so by the European Commissioner for Social Affairs, an unelected Hungarian who we have no influence over whatsoever.

And this is not some minor irritant.  Control of public spending, given the size of the deficit and the challenge of funding growing numbers of retirees, is crucial if the UK economy is to survive never mind thrive.

The EU would argue that they are sticking up for the rights of immigrants but the best way to ensure that is to have clear, fair and properly enforced rules to reassure the host country's citizens that they are not being taken advantage of.

A group of Tory MPs recently proposed a scheme where UK immigrants would earn their rights to benefits, housing and healthcare over time by working and paying taxes.  They might have added that the immigrant would lose these rights (and ultimately their right to reside in Britain) if they committed any crime.

This might seem tough but it would transform the immigration debate overnight.  The suspicion that immigrant communities are a drain would lift.  Now the very word "immigrant" suggests a burden and a problem but perceptions can quickly change with some clear rules.

Immigration should be a massive plus for Britain.  Not just the cultural vibrancy it brings but hard economic benefits - an improved dependency (worker to non-worker) ratio, a better workforce for our companies and lots of imported skills, capital and connections.

A scheme where residency rights for all immigrants, both EU and non-EU, were dependent on contributing to the system and staying on the right side of the law would ensure that immigration delivers these gains and regains popular trust.

But the EU wants us to go in the opposite direction which will further undermine perceptions of immigrants and make mugs out of honest taxpayers.  I wish it was a Referendum on Europe we were getting ready for in 2014.

The People's Pledge - EU Referendum Campaign

From the website:  Service for Spanish autonomos

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