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Cameron Says Andor's Migration Remarks "Completely Unacceptable"

posted 29 Nov 2013, 05:48 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 29 Nov 2013, 05:49 ]

David Cameron remains defiant over plan to curb migrant benefits and rejects EU commissioner criticism.

VILNIUSLITHUANIA (NOVEMBER 29, 2013) (UK POOL) -  Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday (November 29) defended his government's new plan to deter immigration, saying EU's commissioner Laszlo Andor's "nasty" remarks were "completely unacceptable."

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Earlier this week Cameron unveiled plans to limit European Union migrants' access to welfare in Britain and said he wanted eventually to restrict migrants from poorer EU states relocating to richer ones, stirring a row with the European Commission.

Cameron's Conservatives risk seeing their vote split at European elections next year and at a national election in 2015 by the anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) and he is under pressure from his own party to get tough on the issue.

In response Laszlo Andor, the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, has told the BBC the kind of "unilateral rhetoric" Cameron was indulging in on immigration was unhelpful and risked presenting the UK "as a kind of nasty country."

On Friday, Cameron, who joined EU and east European leaders for a second day of summit talks in the the Lithuanian capital, remained defiant over his plans.

"As the European Union enlarges, we do need to change the rules about free movement. People moving to countries for a job is one thing but I'm not in favour of people moving to be able to claim benefits. That's why we have set out a series of though measures this week to put beyond doubt that there isn't a freedom to go and claim and I think that's important, had strong support from other European countries, all face these similar pressures and want to put in place proper and sensible measures to make sure we get this right," Cameron said.

When asked about Andor's comments, he said: "Let me deal with that very directly. I think it is completely unacceptable for commissioner Andor to say what he said. Britain is one of the most open, one of the most generous, one of the most tolerant countries anywhere in the world and to suggest otherwise is quite wrong. But what I think is important is our generosity and our tolerance shouldn't be abused, but commissioner Andor shouldn't say that, that's not part of his job, his salary after all, part of it, is paid by British tax payers and I except a better behaviour in the future."

Under Cameron's new plan EU migrants would have to wait three months before they could obtain unemployment benefits.

Newcomers would not be eligible for housing benefits and would lose the right to unemployment benefits after six months unless they proved they had a realistic chance of finding work.

His longer term idea of limiting free movement of migrants from poorer EU states would form part of his renegotiation of Britain's membership of the EU, Cameron has said. He has promised to reshape Britain's EU ties before an in/out referendum after 2015 if he is re-elected amid scepticism about the EU.

His idea of reforming the EU's freedom of movement rules would need to be negotiated with other member states and could face a legal challenge from theEuropean Commission.

The EU executive has not said whether or not it will take legal action, but has made it clear it would "rigorously" oppose attempts to restrict freedom of movement, a central tenet of the EU's 500-million-people single market.

The Commission told Britain on Wednesday that EU freedom of movement rules were non-negotiable and that London had to accept them if it wanted to remain in the bloc's single market.