Cameron's immigration cap in tatters as EU president says it would be 'ILLEGAL'

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Cameron's immigration cap in tatters as EU president says it would be 'ILLEGAL'

DAVID Cameron’s plans to limit the number of people coming into the UK from the EU could be illegal.

By: Emma Thomas
Published: Sun, October 19, 2014 

Jose Manuel BarrosoJose Manuel Barroso[PA]

Outgoing president Jose Manuel Barroso said a cap on migrants would be incompatible with EU law.

His comments came as the Prime Minister plans to limit the number of national insurance numbers given to low-skilled workers from EU countries to cut immigration from Europe.

Mr Barroso refused to speak about the proposal specifically on the grounds it had not been presented, but insisted "in principle" a cap on free movement would be in contradiction of EU rules.

He said: "Having said that, full support to all ways of suppressing abuse of benefits because they are against in fact the spirit of our legislation.

"We have to address the abuse cases. I think it is very important to be determined to repress any kind of abuses because there are some kind of abuse of benefits. That is a good point.

"But put in question of principle, I don't think it is good."

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Barroso also criticised the comment by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond last week that Britain was "lighting a fire under the European Union" by holding an in-out referendum on membership.

He went on: "I'm told the Foreign Secretary was the former minister of defence. I think this reference to fire and weapons is more appropriate for defence than foreign secretary.

"It is very important to have a positive tone regarding these issues between Britain and the EU. My advice to all the members... is to have a constructive dialogue, a proper tone."

He said there was a willingness to constructively discuss the UK's concerns and insisted the UK would wield more influence on the world stage from within the EU than outside it.

"He [David Cameron] knows well that without the EU, Britain will have less influence," he said.

Mr Barroso's non negotiable stance on a cap will come as a blow to David Cameron who has restated his promise to put measures to control EU migration at the heart of his plans to renegotiate the UK's relationship with Brussels.

David CameronDavid Cameron [PA]

But former defence secretary Liam Fox dismissed it as predictable, saying he could have written the script himself.

He told Pienaar's Politics on Radio 5: "This is effectively the usual line from the bureaucrats in Brussels, which is 'what the people think doesn't matter, we will continue down a pre-set path of ever-closer union'.

"It's this disconnect with the people of Europe, not just the people of Britain, that has produced 30% of MEPs who either want the whole EU abolished or to leave it."

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said Mr Barroso was "only the latest person from Europe to tell us we'll never get what we want".

He told BBC's Sunday Politics: "But remember we were never going to get the refund that Margaret Thatcher, the rebate that Margaret Thatcher successfully negotiated.

"There are lots of impossible things that we've managed to do in Europe."

In a fresh effort to try to persuade would-be Ukip voters back to the Tories, Mr Cameron has warned it would be a "terrible irony" if voting for Nigel Farage's party let Ed Miliband take the keys to No 10.

The Prime Minister said voters should not be "deceived" into thinking that it was anything other than a "stark choice" between the Conservatives and Labour at the next election.

He also insisted next May's general election would be "the most important for a generation", in an article for the Sunday Telegraph, and said a Labour win would result in a "great nation slipping back into decline".

In a message to wavering Tories, he said: "Let no-one deceive you that there is a third way. A vote for Ukip is a vote for Labour."

The Sunday Times reported that Mr Cameron was considering using a cap on national insurance numbers to bring migration from within the EU under control.

David HansonDavid Hanson [PA]

The newspaper said the plans being drawn up in Downing Street would see new arrivals being given a national insurance number for a temporary period, preventing them from working and claiming tax credits in the UK indefinitely.

The report said the move would be illegal under EU freedom of movement laws, but Mr Cameron could signal he is prepared to leave the EU if he could not achieve a deal.

Cabinet minister Justine Greening told Sky News' Murnaghan programme that free movement of labour was "never meant to be a totally unqualified principle".

The International Development Secretary said: "Although we have managed to bring non-EU migration levels down to the lowest level since the 90s, we do need to see action taken in relation to immigration that's within the EU.

"That means taking a fundamental look at some of the rules that allow unrestricted immigration in a way that we don't think is sensible."

Asked about the national insurance proposals, she said: "I think the Government is looking at a whole range of ways in which we could see the European policy around migration work more effectively, but also what we can do right here in the UK as well."

But shadow immigration minister David Hanson asked why anyone should believe Mr Cameron given that he had failed to deliver on promises in the past.

He added: "At the moment all we've seen are vague promises aimed at the Rochester and Strood by-election because Tory eurosceptics are defecting, instead of the practical plans and real action that is required."

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