EU chief accuses British PM Cameron of posturing over immigration

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 9:25pm


British Prime Minister David Cameron is "posturing" on the heated issues of migration, job seeking and benefits tourism, according to the EU's most senior employment official.

The EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, Laszlo Andor, said the acrimonious debate in Britain is based on "myths".

He said the movement of migrant labour mainly from eastern Europe to richer countries over the past decade was a "win-win" situation for Britain and deplored the quality of the UK debate, which he said was unlike anywhere else in Europe. He said: "The National Health Service is a system that would find it very hard to function without foreign doctors. The Olympic sites in London wouldn't have been built without this migrant workforce."

With Cameron demanding changes to the freedom of movement in the EU - one of the single market's four pillars - to curb migration from future new member states, Andor said such discriminatory action would probably prove impossible.

"This is an absurd idea. You create unacceptable lack of freedoms in some countries. The idea is very controversial. What's the rationale behind it? Posturing is the right word in English." The commission in Brussels has been requesting evidence from the government to support its rhetoric about Europeans arriving in the UK to claim benefits.

Andor, a Hungarian who studied in Manchester, said all it has received are a few anecdotes.

In a speech in Bristol, southwest England, yesterday to argue his case for the benefits of labour migration within the EU, he accused British politicians of stirring up an uninformed populist furore not based on facts or evidence.

He said: "There are a lot of illogical associations made that are unfair. It's surrealistic. These are non-existent issues. Benefits tourism, as such, is a myth."