Immigration is the second most contentious issue amongst voters, a poll by Guardian/ICN has revealed.
More specifically, it is the ‘freedom of movement’ of immigrants into Britain, as allowed by the membership terms of the European Union (EU), that has alarmed both public and party alike, with the main three parties all promising to take a harder line on immigration in the run up to next year’s General Election.
As a result, David Cameron is setting out to crack down on EU migration limits ‘before Christmas’ ahead of a potential in/out referendum in 2017. His aim is to accommodate the needs of the ‘people of Britain’ before that of the EU itself, a notion that has unsurprisingly made the Prime Minister the recipient of a wealth of criticism from other European leaders.
A Conservative vision for the future would entail an immigration system not dissimilar from the border set-up in Croatia, which allows an “emergency brake” on immigration at the government’s discretion, should the country become saturated.
However, the President of the European Commission has expressed his distaste, as to relax immigration impositions from the EU would mean having to re-write its founding treaty, of which ‘freedom of movement’ is integral. Although prepared to ‘accommodate the UK’s legitimate concerns’ on immigration, Commission President José Barroso argues that ‘freedom of movement’ is ‘essential’, ultimately dashing the Prime Minister’s hopes of a possible ‘renegotiation’ of the relationship between Britain and the EU.
This could leave Britain with an option to terminate their EU membership, a policy highly anticipated by UK Independence Party, however this is also hotly contested. With seven cabinet members, including Cameron himself, prepared to call quits, Barroso has delivered heavy criticism arguing that ‘Britain is stronger in the EU’. David Cameron essentially faces a conundrum which could result in either more freedom for Britain to determine its own laws, or one which may culminate in ‘zero influence’, according to Barroso, in EU politics and trade.
Having not yet packed its last punch, the European Commission landed one further blow to the UK when it demanded a further £1.6bn contribution, 1/5 more than its current bill, after the UK economy performed far better than expected over the last couple of years. The European Commission can only serve to sour the, already unsweetened, UK to its policies.
The current EU crisis could prove to be the least of David Cameron’s worries, however, as the Prime Minister is feeling the pinch from both Labour and UKIP, as the former promises to ‘curb’ immigration with new laws should Miliband be elected as Prime Minister in 2015. This, as well as, the defection of Tory MPs to Farage’s party has proved problematic for the Conservatives this month.
Douglas Carswell became the most recent Tory-turned-UKIP and after successfully winning a majority of more than 12,000 in the Clacton by-election became the first UKIP MP. And Mark Reckless has defected to Farage’s party in time for the Rochester and Strood by-election on 20 November.
Anxiety is clearly high for the Prime Minister in the run up to the General Election in six months time. Not only has the proposition of a ‘safe seat’ been thrown into question by recent UKIP victories, but now the biggest thing David Cameron has to worry about is whether his recent promises to take a tough line on the EU issue comes just in time for the current electorate, or whether it will fall flat in favour to more radical policies hailed by the UK Independence Party.
Photo Credits: Alamy