In February David Cameron announced that he was putting an emergency ‘benefit brake’ on benefits for all EU migrants. The new deal provided a brake mechanism that would allow any EU member country to limit access to in-work benefits for new EU immigrants. It was proposed by David Cameron that ‘people coming to Britain from the EU must live here and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing .’ This consequently meant there would be ’emergency brake’ on benefits.
The inevitable question was then left unanswered: ‘Why a brake on benefits and not immigration? Many reasons are given to this question, but the main reason is equality. the EU guarantees the free movement of workers which allows a citizen from any of the 28 member countries, to go and work freely in any other member country. It also guarantees the right to be treated equally, including when it comes to social and tax advantages. According to those rules, it meant that migrant workers were currently entitled to social welfare and work-in benefits.
The emergency brake was brought in to address UK concerns on the migrant crisis and is officially referred to as the ‘alert and safeguard’ mechanism. Despite being approved in February, it is now thought that the new proposal will only effect 1 in 10 EU migrants, making it much less effective than David Cameron initially thought it would be – one has even gone as far as to say that the plan is fundamentally flawed. The government hoped that its four-year long ban on in-work benefits will sway voters to voting towards remaining in the EU in next month’s referendum. Although it might be the key purpose, the migration observatory spoke of the restrictions by saying it was ‘unlikely they would lead to a large reduction in EU migration in the UK.’
Ministers previously made a bold statement; claiming that 40% of Europeans that are newly-arrived in Britain, are supported by state handouts – a large amount. Since then, researchers have revealed that the minister’s figures included children as benefit claimants, as well as combining figures from two different sources.
It has now been revealed that the impact of the benefits restrictions will target a ‘small share of families with children’ those in particular, families without two full time earners. The benefit restriction only applies to those who are yet to enter the EU, not those that are already in it, concentrating on a small share of newly arriving families. There is also questioning surrounding this as a solution for the migrant crisis because there is little evidence to suggest that benefits act as a magnet towards encouraging migrants into the country in the first place. Even if the benefits had not been available, some would have perhaps chosen to relocate to the UK anyway for better opportunities and higher paid jobs. Back when the benefit brake was going through negotiations, Jeremy Corbyn supported those saying it would have little effect by saying it was ‘ineffectual’ and there was no evidence that the emergency brake will help towards reducing the migrant crisis in Britain; ‘there is no evidence that it will act as a brake on inward migration and it wont put a penny in the pockets of workers in Britain or stop the undercutting of UK wages by the exploitation of migrant workers.’
In a report published by experts, it says that ‘the number of people whose initial migration decision might be affected by the immediate availability of tax credits is likely to be a small share total, suggesting that the proposed benefits restriction is unlikely to lead to a dramatic reduction in EU immigration to the UK,’ it is also important to note that it has been suggested that EU migrants are less likely to claim out of work benefits and more likely to claim in-work than those from the UK. Should we then discourage work by cutting in-work benefits?
The Oxford university Think-Tank said the measures were unlikely to spark large reduction in migration and many of those already living in Britain do not receive benefits anyway, meaning the break is unlikely to act as a deterrent.
With the migrant crisis still at large in Britain, has David Cameron really provided the most effective solution? with only 10-20% of migrants claiming from the state anyway, it is safe to say that he has taken control from the wrong angle. Defending his decisions, the PM’s spokeswoman said; ‘we are ending the culture of something for nothing.’