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Queen's Speech announces new curbs on EU citizens' benefit rights

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 08.05.2013 12:45
In an attempt to counter discontent in the UK at the amount of immigrants from Poland and elsewhere in the EU, the British government has announced new plans to restrict welfare benefits.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II departs Buckingham Palace for the State Opening of Parliament in London, Britain, 08 May 2013. The Queen outlined new laws in her speech at parliament approved by the coalition government: photo - EPA/ANDY RAIN

Data from the UK 2011 census revealed that 546,000 people in England and Wales speak Polish, after a wave of immigration to the country after it opened its doors to new EU members in 2004.

Low-skilled workers from Bulgaria and Romania were restricted to existing quota schemes in the agricultural and food processing sectors in the UK after they joined the EU in 2007. But these restrictions will be dropped on 1 January, with Bulgarians and Romanians also entitled to claim the same benefits and NHS care as other EU citizens.

Local elections last week revealed that immigration has become the number one political issue in many parts of Britain, with the UKIP party gaining the most from the anti-immigration sentiment.

In an attempt to stem the loss of support from the Conservative party, the senior coalition partner in the British government, Queen Elizabeth II announced in the annual 'Queen's Speech' to parliamentarians, Wednesday, that new restrictions on Poles and other new migrants' access to unemployment and welfare benefits would be put in place.

"My government will bring forward a bill that further reforms Britain’s immigration system. The bill will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not," Queen Elizabeth said in a statement prepared by the government.

According to British media, benefits, housing and healthcare will be limited to new arrivals who are willing to work and pay taxes to fund state-backed support, says the speech, which the Queen traditionally gives on behalf of the government.

Non-British EU citizens will be restricted to six-months job seekers allowance if made unemployed and new responsibilities will be put before EU member states if their citizens use the National Health Service.

The new immigration bill will be published in the autumn, after the details are thrashed out between the Conservative party and its junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats.

“We have been very clear that we totally get that there’s a heightened level of public anxiety about immigration,” said deputy PM and leader of the Lib-Dems, Nick Clegg,

‘The last [Labour] government, when Poland and a lot of other countries joined didn’t put […] controls in place,” PM David Cameron said last week.

‘And because other European countries did we have an enormous influx of people from Poland and those other countries,” he added.

David Cameron said earlier this year that if his Conservative party wins the next election in 2015 he intends to renegotiate Britain's membership of the EU and put an 'in/out referendum before voters. (pg)

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