Coffee House

David Goodhart tells David Cameron how to tackle immigration by reforming the EU

31 July 2013

9:41 AM

31 July 2013

9:41 AM

Much, if not all, of the discussion about immigration in recent days has barely mentioned migration from the European Union, which, given the scale of such migration, was an oversight.

Freedom of movement is sacred in Brussels – and indeed elsewhere on the continent. But the times they are a changing. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania has alarmed leaders on the frontier between old and new Europe, in capitals like Berlin, Stockholm and Copenhagen, where there is concern about the effect of a further wave of immigration on employment and public services.


The think tank Demos says, in its response to the EU Balance of Competencies Review, that David Cameron should conspire with these nations to twist the European Commission’s arm. The Times reports that Demos recommend that:

  • A two year limit on benefit payments to migrants.
  • Reserve apprenticeships for British trainees.
  • Examine employment tax breaks.
  • And, most controversially, countries should be barred from the free labour market until their economies reach 75% of the EU average. This is to stop the export of unemployment.

These suggestions are incompatible with European law, to say nothing of European philosophy. Cameron’s mission, should he choose to accept it, is to convince Brussels that such changes must be made. The director of Demos, David Goodhart (who was the lead speaker at a recent Spectator debate on the effects on immigration, which you can listen to here), says, ‘The price the EU pays in terms of unpopularity and mistrust is too high for the relatively modest economic gains associated with unqualified free movement.’

Indeed, but there is another side of story. The British government makes no secret of its determination to make the single market operate effectively and liberally. How would Brussels react to the view that we and other privileged countries deserve special treatment? And Brussels might also point to Britain’s recent enthusiasm for EU enlargement and ask: what did you expect? Is our position as strong as Demos supposes?

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Show comments
  • Slav

    To all EU skeptics:

    1. To change general rules and reform EU and change all agreements about immigration this must be approved by all 28 state members.

    2. Many poor countries won’t comply to have as good economy as 75% of average in the EU and they will never agree to reform EU that way. This violates the free movement and rights of all of us in the EU.

    3. If you agreed to allow poorest countries to join EU you should ensure these countries will have the same rights as you. That was the main reason that those countries agreed to join EU at all. If not the whole EU doesn’t make any sense with better and worse kind of citizens.

    4. Stop shooting that many citizens from poorest members of EU are not educated and are low skilled which in many cases is not true. These people are mostly after higher education like BSc, MSc and working for you on production lines which is ridiculous.

    5. If you try to rule EU yourself with richest countries as privileged members, the whole concept of EU doesn’t make any sense and most of poorest countries should leave and create their own economic state and exchange goods and money flow in “fair play game”.

    These are the facts.

  • Russ Thomas

    barred from the free labour market until their economies reach 75% of the EU average. ?

    This can only mean GDP per capita. EU average is $32k, so all countries below $24k are to have their EU membership rights curtailed, around one third of all future EU members. Including potential new additions this means Latvia, Lithuania, Esthonia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia – all of which are economies in the $16k to $23 k per capita range – and some pretty hefty populations included. (Poland is the sixth largest EU GDP, and contributor to the EU budget. If Poland got to $25k the EU average would increase.)

    Other completely dreadful performance economies that are desperate to export their vast unemployment, no doubt include nations with GDP per capita even lower than $16k – like Argentina, Brazil, Iran, South Africa ($12k) or China, Ukraine ($9k), India, Pakistan ($4k)

    • Denis_Cooper

      You have named five of the ten countries which joined the EU on May 1st 2004, the other five being Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Of course Malta and Cyprus have small populations and therefore relatively few potential migrants to come to the UK, so they can be more or less set aside for the purposes of this discussion. I don’t know exactly what statistics you are using, but the other three also have low per capita incomes compared to the UK, even if they would just scrape in above two thirds of the EU average. And as this is after nine years of EU membership preceded by some years of helping them to prepare for membership it seems unlikely that these large disparities in per capita GDP or income will disappear any time soon, and while they persist they will continue to create a powerful economic driving force for migration from the poorer countries to the wealthier countries including the UK. There is in my view rather too much focus on the problem that some people from those countries may come here just for benefits, when the more important reality is that they can be so much better off working here than working at home.

    • Slav

      They need cheap slaves, that was some time ago principle and background of richest economies.

  • Russ Thomas

    Reserve apprenticeships for British trainees.?
    Totally out of touch with reality. The omnishambles excuse for a government that currently runs the UK Parliament counts almost 80% of apprenticeships as courses ranging from 6 months to 24 months.

  • Russ Thomas

    A two year limit on benefit payments to migrants.?
    At present EU migrants have ZERO entitlement to benefit payments – unless they are of the contributory type, earned by having clocked two FULL April to March NICs years. Unless, and until, they acquire British citizenship they cannot access the NHS without full health insurance, or obtain council housing, or vote in a General Election. It takes a minimum of six years to get the same rights as a Brit.

    For all recipients of contributory benefits, Brits or not, they expire or severely reduce, after a few years or so.

    Are the think tank saying that the migrants NIC payments will not now entitle them to years credits for pension purposes ?

    Or will their UK citizenships be second class ?

    Or are they intending to treat all British dependant territories as though they are foreign countries – Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, British Virgin Isles, etcetera (but allow all citizens of Eire full British citizenship rights – or are they now to be treated as undesirable migrants)

    Or are the think tank just letting us know that they haven’t got even a first clue of HOW TO THINK.

  • Fak_Zakaix

    I would add one further recommendation: countries who are adamant in asking that “countries should be barred from the free labour market until their economies reach 75% of the EU average” should be allowed to leave the EU at their leisure.

  • CharlietheChump

    There is no chance Euro Elites will give an inch on this, and every other key UK demand.
    None at all.
    So that leaves exit, and keeping our neighbours as just good friends.

  • West Ham Utd

    We should negotiate a position that we will only give freedom of movement to counties that have adopted the Euro and have the choice to extend it to countries of our choosing, such as Denmark, that dont

  • Denis_Cooper

    First there was the insanity of giving 800 million people around the world, the great majority living in poor countries, the automatic right to come and live and work here as “Commonwealth citizens”.

    That insanity endured for 14 years before it was brought to an end.

    Now there is the new insanity of giving over 100 million people in Eastern Europe, the great majority living in poor countries, the automatic right to come and live and work here as “European citizens”.

    So far that insanity has endured for 9 years.

    There are differences between these two episodes of insanity.

    The first episode started with an insane Act passed by the post-war Labour government, which was neutralised by an Act passed by a Tory government; in contrast, both parties are strongly in favour of the present insanity.

    But more importantly, the start and the end of the first episode were entirely under the control of our Parliament – an insane Act was passed, in due course a more sensible Act was passed to counter the effects of the earlier insane Act – whereas the present insanity involves international treaties with other European countries, and once Parliament has approved those treaties it cannot unilaterally stop the insanity without breaking those treaties.

    Thanks a bunch to our unpatriotic and anti-democratic political class for agreeing that we should be so deprived of our natural right to possess and control our own country; and cowardly too, as they never dared to ask for our consent directly in any referendum.

    • Noa

      I hadn’t noticed that the flow of cultural enrichment from the Commonwealth had abated in the least. Has anyone else?

      • Denis_Cooper

        True, but would you prefer to go back to them all having the automatic and unrestricted right to come and live and work here? Especially as it’s no longer 800 million, it’s now over 2000 million.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Much, if not all, of the discussion about immigration in recent days has
    barely mentioned migration from the European Union, which, given the scale of such migration, was an oversight.

    Well could it be an intentional or convenient oversight because if one applies the statistical error of plus or minus 17% associated with the ridiculous polling the Home Office uses to estimate the net immigration figures much hailed by the government it casts doubt over whether there has been any reduction in net immigration at all. In fact it is possible that net immigration has risen and as in the period of 2004-2011 the Home Office have just ‘lost’ many thousands of immigrants……….

    Its one thing for the Tories to declare that they have cut immigration but missed their targets. It’s wholly another if its discovered immigration has actually risen…….!

  • Austin Barry

    Lynton Crosby is going to have to produce some tremendous and effective coup de théâtre to address the electorate’s electric concern with the approaching advance of the Romanian and Bulgarian armies, lead by the Roma shock troops.

    As the Coalition is imprisoned within the straitjacket of EU Law, it can do nothing which will appease the roiling discontent which, reasonably, anticipates more crowded schools, more unemployment, more cultural displacement, more crime.

    The only beneficiary of this mess will be UKIP.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ‘Brussels might also point to Britain’s recent enthusiasm for EU enlargement’

    No, not Britain’s enthusiasm. Bliar’s, Whitehall and Big Business’, which. it should be pointed out to Brussels, is not the same as Britain.

    • HookesLaw

      What makes you think you speak for Britain?

      • CharlietheChump

        So you think Bliar, Whitehall and Big Business’ do speak for Britain?

    • Austin Barry

      Wouldn’t it be refreshing – and an election winner- if Cameron just said to the EU:

      “Look, we’ve considered this carefully, but it is no benefit to the UK whatsoever, and in fact would exacerbate problems of housing, welfare, unemployment, community cohesion and crime, to permit New Year immigration from Bulgaria and Romania, so we won’t…” ;

      further, anticipating the howl of outrage from the EU’s socialist cadres, Cameron would say;

      “..and, if you have insuperable problems with that decision, we will quit the EU and, of course, stop any further payments of our €12.1 billion annual contribution…”.

      If there were any further yelps of outrage from the EU, Dave would send little William Hague over to see Barroso and chums with a simple message: two words.

      • Noa

        It will not. David Cameron has already said that, in the event his promised referendum occurs and favours an EU departure, he will not accept it.

        • greggf

          Which is why Cameron has to go.

      • Drwho

        Except that Hague personally promised at the beginning of the year to the Romanian and Bulgarian governments that the treaty rights will be respected in full from 2014. Actually, as long as we are part of the EU, EU law in the “domains of competence”, overrides national laws. Even if the government decides to keep restrictions, any UK businesses that wish to employ Romanians and Bulgarians from 2014 can just do so legally. They can’t be fined, because EU courts will cancel any fines or penalties.

      • Nick

        If only Austin.If only.

    • Fak_Zakaix

      Blair won the election three times.

  • dalai guevara

    The spin these days is second rate, it must be silly season with the main players on the beach. What have we had to endure?

    Twenty odd travellers paid handsomely to return to subsistence farming. I bet they will be given a free tractor via foreign aid.
    An royal chap from the subcontinent ‘forced’ to return home as his visa expired.
    A couple of vans with banners touring the streets. ‘Murdered anyone? Go home of face arrest’.

    Who on earth comes up with such drivel? Step forward and face the people.

  • Justathought

    The benefit cap here is now £500 per week per household. The average working household income in Romania and Bulgaria is £100 per week. The average working income in the UK is 20 times that of Romania and Bulgaria.

    It is now obvious to all that the pull factor of the UK will attract huge numbers. the only uncertainty remaining is what percentage will be families with children urgently needing welfare health education and subsidised housing.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Indeed. A disaster waiting to happen and the government has really done nothing to address it. Seen it all before. British “pragmatism” and “wait’n’see-ism” followed by chaos and knee-jerk. Cowardice now followed by panic later.

      The impact on the destination communities will probably be horrendous. And those idiots who really think that British taxpayers should fund foreign benefits tourists need their heads examining.

      • Colonel Mustard

        I see one of the idiots has turned up.

    • HookesLaw

      An economic migrant as an individual would not attract £500. Would they attract benefits at all?
      the issue is not benefits but why indigenous Brits are not finding or looking for work.
      The BBC row with John Humphries points to why and to why the problem is not being attacked – ie left wing bigotry in places like the BBC.

      • Petra Thompson

        “why indigenous Brits are not finding or looking for work.”

        I have seen large gangs of builders/labourers on huge local government projects in Britain. Every member of the gang was an eastern european. They have no problem ensuring that they discriminate against the native people and other foreigners for that matter.

        Large numbers of Post Offices are being run by Indians. Go into a large PO and find the entire staff are Indian. More discrimination. These are not British-born people from India; they are from India.

        I know of cleaning companies in London, where all the staff are Colombian. They don’t even have a right to be in this country.

        It’s another of the fallacies: that foreigners have the same attitude that discrimination is bad. They don’t.

        • Fak_Zakaix

          And the financial sector is run by Jews.

          • Petra Thompson

            None of my jewish friends work in finance. None of my friends who work in finance are jewish.

            With attitudes like yours, it’s no surprise that most of the violent attacks on jews in London are by muslims.

            • Fak_Zakaix

              If you also try to make friends among east Europeans, Indians and Columbians maybe you can cure yourself of xenophobia.

      • Justathought

        Irrespective of how you classify a migrant the majority are going to need benefits. Even working 16 hours is sufficient for working benefits and is the passport to the upper limit of £500 per household.

    • greggf

      “It is now obvious to all that the pull factor of the UK will attract huge numbers.”

      And it’s unique to the UK (and possibly ROI too).
      Other EU members require migrants to have accessible contributions records, health insurance cover, proof of minimum residence periods , proof of employment, ID and even salubrious dwelling habits (as Roma have fell foul of) before residence and any access to welfare is contemplated.
      Which is enough to deter most speculative migration.

    • Fak_Zakaix

      You know quite a lot about benefits. Are you yourself on benefits? My feeling is that Bulgarians and Romanians are more keen on working.

      • Lady Magdalene

        Hard work, selling the Big Issue isn’t it. And for effectively begging, they get free access to the full panoply of our welfare state, including social housing.

  • HookesLaw

    There should not be anything controversial about putting economic strings to movement of labour for the accession countries. Its obvious the problems that could be caused by movement of labour between countries with different and independent economies and standards of living.
    Free movement can work well, it works well and is helpful in the continental nation that is America. It would work well in the original 6 of the EEC. If some countries do not care thats fine with them but other countries should be allowed to set rules to protect their own labour force.

    • anyfool

      You say,
      between countries with different and independent economies and standards of living
      You appear to have missed out morality, one of the most egregious problems with most immigration from Eastern Europe and Muslim countries is their clear lack of respect for laws and traditions of the host countries.
      The Roma have been hated and reviled for centuries in Eastern Europe because they take with impunity and contribute nothing to the host, why would anyone think that they would suddenly change now they are in richer countries, surely it will make them worse.
      The Muslims have also been at best tolerated for a century after the collapse of the Ottoman empire, as soon as communism collapsed there was a settling of ancient scores. these two sets of people caused other people to hate them for centuries, why does anyone think we in Western Europe will react any different.

      • HookesLaw

        No, what I clearly missed out was bigoty.

        • anyfool

          What you clearly are missing is the facts, do you think you can change these people in a few years when others have tried for centuries.
          Typical socialist group think from someone who professes to be conservative.
          The truth whether bigoted or racist still remains the truth.

          • Keith D

            The child has thrown the rattle out the pram.When someone equates distaste for Islam with bigotry,and refers to camps you know they’ve an agenda.Or are just a complete moron.I suspect both in this case.
            Its amazing that socialists think its clever to attack someone by referring to camps created by socialists over 70 years ago.

            Isn’t irony delicious?

            • anyfool

              It would appear Hook doesn’t do facts,
              He does not do tolerance neither, he is possibly more sanctimonious than Telemachus and pals.
              Hook and Tele seem to be of the opinion that their view is the only true insight, they both spout the mantra that their current obsessions Cameron and Balls respectively are masters of their brief and will brook no opposition to them. in the case of Hooky he seems to parrot the Cameron line that immigration is good and at the same time pretending their aim is to curb it.
              Most of the immigrants to this country are here for the work or benefits, neither of these reasons merits citizenship or the right to abode.
              There might be a few who want to become citizens because of preference for this countries values and way of life, but these are few and far between, but the construct that masquerades as Hookslaw would never understand that, nor do almost all the political class, being English is a state of mind no matter where you originally came from but this does not register with them.

        • Keith D

          Thats patently untrue.Are you really suggesting a moral equivalency between Muslim savages and Western values?

        • Colonel Mustard

          There are such things as national and cultural differences you know. Understanding that and accepting it is not bigotry – in fact it is the essence of multi-culturalism. Only socialist idiots think everyone really is the same and “equal” which is why criminals, terrorists and scam artists flourish whenever they are in power. Their deluded belief in their own benevolence and infallibility blinds them to faults in others – except in the case of Tories of course where they are happy to indulge in bigotry, stereotyping and hate speech. Which is largely why we are where we are in this country.

  • John Jefferson Burns

    Y’all have my sympathies.
    When you solve it tell us.
    We are inundated by Meccicans bringing their drugs, their crime and above all taking our jobs.
    Demos seems the way forward for us and if we put similar into the next Repblican election mix we would progress.

    • HookesLaw

      Figures show there are about 11.5 million Mexican born immigrants in the USA. Many are eligible for naturalisation. Either way thats a lot of votes. The flow seems to be slowing.
      In total there are about 38 million foreign born people in the USA, so picking on Mexicans for ‘taking jobs’ seems a bit extreme. Most Mexicans work in ‘construction extraction and transportation’.

      Do they take jobs away?

      • Wessex Man

        Where did you get that figure from Hooky, it’s not one I’ve seen before are you sure that’s not the illegal immigrants total?

        • global city

          It does not matter. The important point is the one about the flow getting slower. This is because Mexico is becoming more prosperous. It is only becoming more prosperous (like with India) because it has dropped the silly peasant obsessions of the revolutionaries and adopted ‘yankee capitalism’… as in free markets and a proper basis of law.

          It ALWAYS works.

    • Keith D

      We wont solve it.David Cameron and the Tories are at best out and out Liberals,at worst,closet Socialists.Their agenda has always been pro Immigration.Any noise coming from them saying differently is merely fluffing.
      Even if we did solve it and told you,you can bet your bottom dollar the Democrats wouldn’t buy it.

    • Noa

      President López de Santa Anna took a similar view when he found Coahuila y Tejas filling rapidly with unwanted migrants.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yeah, but he dealt with it the old fashioned way.

        He went to work as a commodities trader on Wall Street.

        You can look it up. 😉

  • Daniel Maris

    What possible reason could the East and Southern European countries have for supporting such changes? None.

    • Noa

      And that is the core of the matter. Why should any government have to get permission to protect the interests of its own people over foriegners?

      No amount of mere tampering with the meddling with the EU’s procedures will change or affect its continuing one world socialist agenda.

      There is no alternative to Brexiit.

      • John Jefferson Burns

        We are in charge and we still seem powerless to fix it- at least while that dangerous liberal Obama holds the reins

    • HookesLaw

      One reason might be a shortage of labour in their own countries and thus a drain on their economies services and infrastructure. Norway ios not in the EU but contributes to EU regional funds. the purpose of these funds is to raise the level of the economies of the accession countries.
      Its to the benefit of our economy if the have improved economies in say Bulgaria where we can export to.

      It seems to me there is nothing wrong with seeking to improve the economies of a wider europe, its to our advantage. We do not need the political paraphernalia surrounding the effort though.

  • Adrian Drummond

    When English is the main lingua franca in Europe, a disproportionate number of immigrants want (and need) to come to the UK.; that is both unreasonable and unrealistic.

    • Daniel Maris

      Probably the worst example you could have chosen. The Dutch seems to speak English to a higher standard than most people in the UK.

      • Adrian Drummond

        You are missing the point; just because most Dutch speak good English doesn’t mean that those that cannot speak Dutch can work there. Move there and you’ll find this out very quickly.

        • dalai guevara

          Erhm, speaking German will work nicely.
          The default language when working on international clinical trials is English.
          There is no real requirement to speak Dutch, Vlaams will do 😉

          • Fergus Pickering

            Yes, but Romanians and Bulgarians can’t speak German either.

            • alleagra

              Please don’t generalize. Many Romanians speak German and indeed there
              are many Romanian schools across Romania where tuition is primarily
              conducted in German. It’s true that younger Romanians do tend to choose
              to learn English and are aided in this by the state-advised use of
              subtitles rather than dubbing on programs from foreign TV stations.

          • itdoesntaddup

            I wouldn’t try speaking German in Holland if you want to be attended to reasonably promptly. I have watched German speakers being ignored on many an occasion there.

        • HookesLaw

          ‘Polish immigration to the Netherlands has steadily increased since Poland was admitted to the E.U.’
          ‘About one million people of Polish descent live in France,’
          ‘The second largest Polonia in the world, and the largest in Europe, is the Polish minority in Germany.’
          and of course…
          ‘Norway has recently experienced an influx of Polish migrant workers. This because Norway is a member of the European Economic Area, providing the same free movement of labour as between members of the European Union.’

          The pro rata the Polish population of Norway to the UK and it comes out at about 850,000.

    • HookesLaw

      Really – ?
      I suspect most Poles speak Russian rather than English. French and German are also taught in schools.

      On the other hand many people in the UK speak Polish as their first language so I am not sure that the english language is a particular pull.

      • johnslattery

        Way off beam there, HookesLaw. The fact that we use English and most migrants have at least a smattering of it is absolutely critical. This is why migrants struggle to get started in Sweden, Denmark and Germany–they are locked out of the job market because they cannot speak the language, which means unemployment is a much more serious issue among their migrants than among ours. This hurdle does not exist in England (and to a lesser extent France and Spain, which also have international lingos). Everybody has some English, and it gives them access to the vital first job. It is, as said, an absolutely critical difference.
        By the way, Poles still dislike speaking Russian–try asking some–and seem to love speaking English.

        • Justathought

          And even if they cannot speak English there is an army of publicly funded translators here to help with benefit claims and another army of legal aid lawyers to follow-up where necessary!

        • Fak_Zakaix

          Than you should pay for it. Nothing is for nothing.

      • itdoesntaddup

        Poles will understand Russian in the same way as Italians understand Spanish. But few of them speak it, and many would not readily read it since Polish doesn’t use a Cyrillic script. Knowledge of German and English is far more widespread.