British PM Cameron to announce welfare ban to curb EU migration

British PM David Cameron is set to announce a ban on EU migrants claiming welfare for four years. -- PHOTO: REUTERS  
British PM David Cameron is set to announce a ban on EU migrants claiming welfare for four years. -- PHOTO: REUTERS  

LONDON (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron will promise to ban migrants from the European Union claiming welfare for their first four years in a drive to slash immigration, in a Friday speech.

The plan for tougher rules has been much anticipated and comes after the release of embarrassing official figures that showed migration had grown under Cameron's watch despite promises to reduce it.

Under pressure to curb immigration from the anti-EU UK Independence Party ahead of the May 2015 election, Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's membership of the bloc and hold an in-out referendum in 2017.

The Conservative leader will not rule out campaigning for an exit from the EU if a satisfactory deal is not reached, according to an advance copy of a speech he is to give on Friday.

"If I succeed, I will, as I have said, campaign to keep this country in a reformed EU," Cameron will say.

"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." The speech will say that EU migrants should have a job offer before moving to Britain and that unemployed migrants should not be allowed to stay.

Cameron will promise to block EU migrants who do have work from claiming benefits such as tax credits and social housing until they have been resident for four years.

Incentives should also be removed for lower-paid and lower-skilled workers to come to Britain in the first place.

In addition, migrants will not be able to claim child benefits or tax credits for children who live elsewhere in the EU.

- 'Real concerns' -

"My objective is simple: to make our immigration system fairer and reduce the current exceptionally high level of migration from within the EU into the UK," he will say.

"I say to our European partners, we have real concerns. Our concerns are not outlandish or unreasonable. We deserve to be heard, and we must be heard."

"Here is an issue which matters to the British people, and to our future in the European Union. The British people will not understand - frankly I will not understand - if a sensible way through cannot be found."

Migrants from new members of the bloc should not be allowed to work in Britain until the economies of their home countries are more in line with the rest of the EU, according to the plans.

Cameron will also urge tougher re-entry bans for rough sleepers and beggars, and stronger measures for deporting criminals.

Figures released on Thursday showed a 40 per cent rise in net migration to Britain in the year to June compared to the previous 12 months.

The difference between those arriving and those leaving Britain rose to 260,000 in the period, driven by immigration from other EU member states, particularly Romania.

Cameron had vowed to bring yearly net migration under 100,000 - a target the government now admits is unlikely to be met by the general election in May.

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