The British prime minister’s plans to limit welfare payments to migrants from other EU countries have had a mixed reaction.
Poland, which has hundreds of thousands of nationals in Britain – said tightening the benefits system had to be within EU rules and it would block any restrictions on labour mobility.
David Cameron proposed time limits to in-work and social benefits, as well as other restrictions – adding that changes to EU treaties would be needed.
“These are UK ideas and they are part of the debate. They will have to be examined without drama, and should be discussed calmly and carefully. It is up to national lawmakers to fight against abuses of the system and the EU law allows for this,” said European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.
There are reports suggesting that Germany forced Cameron to row back on a radical idea to cap directly the number of EU migrants entering Britain.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the British prime minister should commit himself to the principle of free movement – the “central pillar”, she called it, of the EU and the single market.
The prospect of a massive confrontation with Germany and other EU countries might damage David Cameron – under severe pressure from eurosceptics in his own Conservative Party, and from the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a major threat to all mainstream parties at next year’s general election.
Equally the British prime minister’s hint that he could campaign for Britain to exit the EU if it blocks his plans will provide food for thought for European leaders.