U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced sweeping changes to Britain’s welfare rules in a bid to curb a flow of European Union migrants into the country. He stepped back from challenging the EU’s principle of Freedom of Movement, but warned the U.K.’s future membership of the Union was at stake.
Cameron’s highly anticipated immigration speech followed new government figures showing net migration into the U.K. had risen by nearly half in the last year. The numbers were placing a strain on public services like schools and hospitals.
Welfare changes to ‘significantly’ limit migration from the European Union, said Cameron, were an absolute requirement.
“I am confident that they will reduce significantly EU migration to the U.K. And that is what I am determined to deliver. My very clear aim is to be able to negotiate these changes for the whole EU, because I believe they would benefit the whole EU,” he said.
Politically, immigration from the EU is pressuring Cameron both in Parliament and in the country, where U.K. independence party recently won two Parliamentary by elections promising to pull out.
Cameron’s tough new welfare reforms were designed to curb immigration and counter a rise of ‘euroskepticism’ in Britain that could ultimately see Britain leave the EU.
After months agonizing over the legalities, Cameron has avoided direct confrontation with the EU’s Freedom of Movement, stopping short of imposing quotas or a so called ’emergency brake.’
But that doesn’t mean his negotiations with EU will be easygoing.
If opponents inside the EU can make a case that cutting EU migrants out of Britain’s welfare benefits is discriminatory, his options could become greatly reduced.
CCTV America’s Richard Bestic reported this story from London.