28 November 2014
Last updated at 09:12
Mr Cameron said in 2011 that he wanted to bring immigration down to 1990s levels
The prime minister will set out plans to curb welfare benefits for migrants from the EU in a speech shortly.
David Cameron will say EU migrants should have to wait at least four years before receiving benefits such as tax credits or council houses.
He will insist the changes, which he will seek if he is elected in May, are an “absolute requirement” in future talks over whether to stay in the EU.
It follows news that net migration to the UK has risen above 2010 levels.
In a long-awaited speech in the West Midlands, Mr Cameron will say he is confident that he can change the basis of EU migration into the UK and therefore campaign for the UK to stay in the EU in a future referendum planned for 2017.
But he will warn that if the UK’s demands fall on “deaf ears” he will “rule nothing out” – the strongest hint to date he could countenance the UK leaving the EU.
The main proposals in the speech – which are dependent on Mr Cameron remaining in power after May’s general election – are:
- Stopping EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits, such as tax credits, and getting access to social housing for four years
- Stopping migrants claiming child benefit and tax credits for children living outside the UK
- Removing migrants from the UK after six months if they have not found work
- Restricting the right of migrants to bring family members into the UK
- Speeding up deportation of convicted criminals
- Longer re-entry bans for beggars and fraudsters removed from the UK
- Stopping citizens from new countries joining the EU from working in the UK until “their economies have “converged more closely” with existing members.
Mr Cameron will say the UK public’s concerns about levels of EU immigration over the past decade are “not outlandish or unreasonable” and the changes will create the “toughest welfare system” for migration in Europe.
“We deserve to be heard and we must be heard,” he will say. “Here is an issue which matters to the British people and to our future of the European Union.
“The British people will not understand – frankly I will not understand – if a sensible way through cannot be found, which will help settle this country’s place in the EU once and for all.”
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Cameron’s welfare curbs were “a tougher version of an approach already set out by Labour and the Liberal Democrats” but the proposed four-year limit on benefits would be difficult to negotiate in Brussels.
But he added that ideas of a cap on the numbers coming in had been abandoned amid the realisation he could not get support from other EU leaders for it.
Analysis by BBC political editor Nick Robinson
It is a speech which David Cameron and his advisers have agonised over for months.
Ideas for it have been floated in the media, tested in capitals across Europe, debated with civil servants and, no doubt, market tested as well.
What is revealing is not just what has stayed in but what has come out.
At the moment EU citizens are free to come to the UK and compete for jobs without being subject to any immigration controls. Those from outside the EU face much tighter controls if they wish to enter the country.
Mr Cameron will reply to criticism that the Conservatives’ stated aim in opposition to reduce overall levels of net migration below 100,000 – which has never been a coalition target due to Lib Dem opposition – is “in tatters”.
Former Conservative minister Sir Gerald Howarth said the speech contained “good measures” but questioned whether they would be enough to reduce migration numbers.
He told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “We need action this day and our view is that we need to restore to the UK Parliament, immediately, control over our borders and if the Liberals don’t like it then let’s go to the country”.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said Mr Cameron was “on pretty much the right lines” in trying to stop the UK’s welfare system from being “a suction force”.
But he warned against discouraging “talent” from moving to Britain, adding: “The last thing we should be is negative.”
The Conservatives’ 2010 election manifesto said: “We will take steps to take net migration back to the levels of the 1990s – tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands.”
But the coalition agreement pledged only an “annual limit” on people coming to the UK from outside the European Union for economic reasons, without a specific number.
Net migration – the numbers coming to live in Britain minus those leaving – is estimated to have risen by 78,000 to 260,000 in the year to June, 16,000 higher than it was when the coalition government was formed in 2010.
Some 228,000 EU citizens came to the UK in the year to June 2014, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday.
Note: 2014 shows provisional rolling quarterly estimates
The figures led Mr Cameron’s political rivals to say the Conservatives’ policy on immigration had failed.
Lib Dem Deputy PM Nick Clegg, who has called for a higher earnings threshold for tax credits and other benefits rather than a ban, said “over-promising and under-delivering” did damage to public confidence in the immigration system.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Mr Cameron had made a “dishonest promise” as it was not possible to reduce net migration by such an extent while the UK was a member of the European Union.
And shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the target had been left in “tatters”.
She said: “Rather than ramping up the rhetoric, David Cameron must now set out sensible, practical plans.”
Labour’s own proposals include a two-year ban on EU migrants claiming in-work benefits, a ban on child benefits being sent abroad and stopping firms exploiting immigration to undercut wages and jobs.
Net migration peaked at 320,000 in 2005. It fell to a low of 154,000 in the year ending September 2012.
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