The prime minister has said he will look at ways of restricting UK immigration from within the European Union.
07 January 2013
Prime Minister considering tough changes to UK immigration
David Cameron has said his Government will look at ways of making UK immigration tougher for EU migrants.
With UK immigration rates still above the Conservative Party's stated goal of the 'tens of thousands', the Government has been forced to make changes to UK visa and immigration policies affecting international students and non-EU migrants due to freedoms enshrined in the laws of the European Union.
The Freedom of Movement directive allows citizens of any member country to live and work in any other member country without the need for a country-specific visa.
However, this has resulted in high rates of net migration to the UK from European Union countries and, with Romania and Bulgaria expected to join the EU next year, there are some concerns this could lead to another spike in immigration.
While Mr Cameron said there would be no 'in-out' referendum as demanded by the UK Independence Party and supported by several senior Conservative MPs, the prime minister said the Government would 'look at' ways of restricting EU immigration.
"Clearly one of the key reasons for being a member of the European Union are what are called the key freedoms - the movement of goods, the movement of services, the movement of people," the prime minister said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
"There are restrictions already on the movement of people if you have, for instance, an emergency.
"Should we look at argument about should it be harder for people to come and live in Britain and claim benefits? Yes, frankly, we should - so there are areas even in the free movement of people where we might want to make changes.
"We have got this balance of competencies review but all of these areas are should be carefully looked at."
The prime minister is expected to make an important speech on UK immigration issues later this month.
Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the Government will face tough opposition from the EU if it tries to make too many changes.
"The single market ideal of the EU is built on agreements such as the free trade and the free movement of people, any attempts to alter those for one particular member is unlikely to sit well in Brussels."
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.