The news this morning has been dominated by the piece written in today’s Times by Nigel Lawson, the former chancellor, who has said he would vote to leave the EU.
He repeated criticisms first made to the FT back in January, when he attacked David Cameron’s strategy of renegotiating powers from Brussels. He told us at the time:
It would be politically very difficult, if not impossible, for Cameron to agree to give up our budget rebate and that’s a precondition of any change.
But lest we think the issue of the EU is only a headache for the prime minister, the FT has today revealed plans being cooked up in Brussels that should delight the UK.
The plans would see EU countries continue to pay benefits to anyone who emigrates within the union for six months, rather than the current policy of just three months.
This would help to ease some of the concerns about so-called “benefit tourism” that have been rife in the run-up to the easing of movement restrictions on immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania.
Under the proposal, if a Bulgarian or Romanian were to move to the UK and begin to claim unemployment benefits, it would be six months before it cost UK taxpayers anything.
But the policy also has a downside for the Brits too. At a time when the government is trying to move people off benefits, it does not want to have people leaving the country and continuing to claim unemployment benefits while being out of the reach of back-to-work schemes.
That’s why Anthea McIntyre, a Tory MEP, has told the FT she is sceptical of the move:
While we welcome sensible measures to encourage an open jobs market – things like portability of pensions and qualifications – decisions about benefits legislation are best taken by national governments rather than the EU.
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