Businesses sigh as Cameron 'cracks down' on immigration

The PM outlined measures to keep the number of EU migrants down. Is it us, or is that the faint sound of cheering coming from UKIP HQ?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 27 Nov 2013

More mixed messages from the David Cameron on immigration this morning. The Prime Minister wrote a piece in the Financial Times saying the UK is cracking down on EU migrants because ‘things have gone wrong’.

This is because from the beginning of January, migrants from Romania and Bulgaria will be able to work in the UK – just like people from, for example, Poland, are currently allowed to. In fact, according to Cameron’s piece, there are now 1 million people from central and eastern Europe living in the UK.

Because he is ‘deeply concerned about the impact [increased migration] could have on our country’, Cameron said the government will introduce a series of measures designed to make it harder for migrants to settle in the UK. That includes deferring work benefits for three months, only allowing migrants to claim benefits for six months, imposing a minimum earnings threshold for income support, cutting housing benefit for EU migrants, ‘removing’ and barring those who are sleeping rough, and quadrupling the current fine for businesses that employ workers at below the minimum wage.

It’s a strange move, considering the rash of reports suggesting a curb on EU immigration could be disastrous for the UK.

To wit: earlier this month, figures by UCL showed EU migrants contribute 34% more to the economy than they take out (Brits, on the other hand, contribute 11% less). A separate study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found that for each 1% rise in immigrant share of employment in a given industry, productivity in that sector rises 0.06%.

In September, recruitment firm Hays warned that Britain’s oil and gas, IT and construction industries were suffering from a seriously short supply of workers and that the government must make its immigration policies ‘more geared towards attracting skilled workers’.

But wait - there’s more! That same month, the Centre for Economics and Business Research warned that tightening EU immigration will cost the UK £60bn in lost GDP.

In June, figures by the Office for National Statistics showed that immigration had fallen to 515,000 in the previous 12 months, its lowest figure since 2013.

Some have blamed the rise and rise of UKIP for this sudden panic. Fresh from an operation on his spine, the party’s leader, Nigel Farage, sounded exceptionally chirpy about the news on this morning’s Today programme. In fact, it sounded unnervingly like he had already won…

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