Financial Times

Blow for Cameron after court rules EU jobseekers cannot be expelled

by Alex Barker ­and Patrick Jenkins ­

September 16, 2015 | 3:16 pm
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David Cameron’s plans to curb EU migration suffered a setback yesterday, as a European court ruled against the prime minister’s demand to limit how long EU jobseekers can stay in
Britain.

In a significant test case, the European Court of Justice largely upheld Britain and Germany’s efforts to clamp down on so­called “benefit tourism”, including restrictions on certain
benefits to unemployed EU migrants.

However, it warned that it would be illegal for governments to go beyond this and automatically expel legitimate jobseekers after a set period, saying this would contravene their legal
rights.

While the UK will be pleased the judges have made it easier to restrict benefits for jobseekers, their ruling against expulsions undercuts one of Mr Cameron’s key demands to overhaul
EU migration rules, a reform he aims to secure ahead of an in­out referendum on British membership by 2017.

The ruling comes as more than a dozen leading financiers and business leaders appealed to government for radical action to address Europe’s deepening refugee crisis.

The businessmen, some of the City of London’s biggest names, called on the authorities to welcome migrants more willingly and make it easier for businesses to offer them jobs.

Veteran dealmaker Guy Hands, who heads private equity group Terra Firma, told the monthly debating forum organised by the FT City Network that it was wrong to think of refugees
only as charity cases. “Business people need to make clear that accepting refugees and other migrants that have in­demand skills would be of huge economic benefit to the UK,” he
said.

In a speech last year, Mr Cameron said he wanted to strictly limit the time jobseekers could legally stay in Britain, regardless of whether they had a legitimate prospect of finding work.
“If an EU jobseeker has not found work within six months, they will be required to leave.”

Yesterday’s ECJ ruling said EU citizens and their families “may not be expelled for as long as the union citizens can provide evidence that they are continuing to seek employment and
that they have a genuine chance of being engaged”.

The statement of existing law makes clear that contentious legal reforms would be required for Mr Cameron to achieve his demands. This would entail, as a minimum, an amendment
to the EU free movement directive, a highly sensitive piece of legislation that the European Commission and most member states are loath to reopen.

The government said: “This is a welcome ruling which shows we are right to restrict benefits going to EU nationals who haven’t paid into the system in the UK,” adding that the ruling
would not affect the existing policy of deporting migrants with no prospect of finding work.

 

By: Alex Barker ­and Patrick Jenkins ­


by Alex Barker ­and Patrick Jenkins ­

September 16, 2015 | 3:16 pm
12893  |   93   |   0  |   Start Conversation

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