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EU Warns Britain Freedom Of Movement Is 'Not Negotiable'

posted 27 Nov 2013, 10:02 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Nov 2013, 10:02 ]

European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding warns Britain freedom of movement is not negotiable after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to try to restrict the freedom of movement of people from poorer EU states.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (REUTERS) -  European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding on Wednesday (November 27) warned Britain that freedom movement for EU citizens within the 28-country bloc was not negotiable.

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The comment came after British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to try to restrict the freedom of movement of people from poorer EU states, in an attempt to address public fears about an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians when working restrictions on those two countries expire next year.

Speaking after a presentation on a new 'fair trial' package, Reding said freedom of movement is a core element of the bloc's free market.

"Free movement is a fundamental pillar of the single market. And the single market is something Britain has signed up to and it's very dear to the heart of Great Britain but you must know that in the single market there are four freedoms. There are the free movement of capital, of goods, of services and of persons. You want the four or you want none?" Reding told a news conference.

Reding said the United kingdom greatly benefits from the EU's free market and added many Britons currently reside in a different EU country.

"British banks, British telecom companies, they benefit of the free movement to establish themselves including in Romania and Bulgaria. British tourists, they profit of the free movement, you know that in Bulgaria there are whole British villages of holidaymakers who have bought a house there. And do you know that the UK is the fourth biggest exporter of UK citizens to the rest of Europe? So the fourth most citizens which go out are going out from Great Britain, it is 1.4 million," Reding said.

Reding said Cameron's proposals were at odds with Britain's usual enthusiasm for enlargement.

"I don't understand the political logic, you see? Because Great Britain has always and continues to be a big promoter of enlargement: more member states to join, more member states to join. Britain is always at the forefront to ask for enlargement and then enlargement happens and they are not happy any more so... But enlargement can be stopped, you know, because it is a unanimity decision and simply if Great Britain says no to a future enlargement, there will be no future enlargement, so let's see when the next enlargement wave will come, when the next enlargement discussions will come what will be the position of the UK?" Reding said.

In a Financial Times article published earlier on Wednesday, Cameron said he planned to try to renegotiate the way EU freedom of movement rules are applied to make it harder for people from poorer countries in the 28-nation bloc to relocate to richer countries in time.

Cameron also promised to make it harder for EU migrants to access Britain's welfare system so that new EU migrants would have to wait three months before they could access unemployment benefits.

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

Cameron, whose Conservative party risks seeing its vote split at European elections next year and at a national election in 2015 by the anti-immigration UK Independence Party, is under pressure to act at a time when he is trailing in the polls.