Immigration ‘invasions’ and benefits tourism are the ‘populist inventions’ of UK political leaders, it’s been claimed.
European Commission vice president Viviane Reding, in a strong and thinly-veiled attack on David Cameron, claimed the UK’s stance was “destroying the future” of its people.
Reding, commenting during an online chat (from 33m55s and 53m55s), said European immigrants to the UK contribute more to the country’s coffers than they take out.
It comes after Cameron suggested tougher movement controls should be put on new EU members states, until they reach similar wealth levels to the UK.
Restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK – in place since 2007 – were lifted on January 1.
The British government reacted by tightening benefit rules to ensure migrants cannot claim out-of-work benefits for three months after arriving.
Reding said: “The free movement and supposed invasion by the people who want to take advantage of the social security and health is an invention of politicians who like to have populist movements in order to win in elections.
“I’m mostly frustrated about the political leaders (of the UK). What is leadership if you just try with political movements and political speeches to gain votes? You are destroying the future of your people, actually.
“What the people who come to work bring to the taxation and social security is much more than they take out.
“And those who take out of social security are much more the [UK] nationals than the European Union citizens, who take advantage of the free movement of people.
“It’s just a myth to speak about an invasion, this invasion is just not taking place.”
See below for video of the webchat with EC vice president Viviane Reding
The UK government says there is “widespread concern” about benefits tourism, after it was revealed there were 600,000 EU citizens in Britain classified as “non-active”.
But the European Commission hit back saying that number included students and children. It also pointed out the proportion of UK nationals non-active, 43%, was higher than that of EU nationals, 30%.
Cameron said in a statement: “The hard-working British public are rightly concerned that migrants do not come here to exploit our public services and our benefits system.
“As part of our long-term plan for the economy, we are taking direct action to fix the welfare and immigration systems so we end the ‘something for nothing culture’ and deliver for people who play by the rules.
“Accelerating the start of these new restrictions will make the UK a less attractive place for EU migrants who want to come here and try to live off the state. I want to send the clear message that whilst Britain is very much open for business, we will not welcome people who don’t want to contribute.”