420,000 National Insurance numbers handed to EU migrants in year to June
- Huge rise on the 285,000 handed out in before the coalition was formed
- Number 10 considering plan for quotas on NINOs for EU migrants
- Commission President Barroso warns it is against European laws
- Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable also says the idea is illegal
The number of EU migrants registering to work in Britain has soared by 55 per cent since 2010, but David Cameron has been warned a plan to cap the numbers would be illegal.
In the last year, National Insurance numbers (NINOs) have been handed out to more than 420,000 people from the EU, up from 285,000 in the year before the coalition was formed.
Number 10 is considering a plan to impose a limit on the numbers available to workers from individual countries, but today there were fresh warnings the idea would break European law.
National Insurance numbers (NINOs) have been handed out to more than 420,000 people from the EU, up from 285,000 in the year before the coalition was formed
Spain, Romania, Greece and Italy have seen the biggest increases in NINOs in the last six years, according to official government figures
Mr Cameron is under growing pressure to announce a radical new approach to tackle soaring immigration from Europe.
The Prime Minister has promised it will form the centrepiece of his plan to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU, before holding an in-out referendum by 2017.
Senior Conservatives are considering a proposal to impose quote on ‘time-limited national insurance numbers’ to limit the numbers of people able to move to Britain for work.
Mr Cameron promised to cut net migration to the tens of thousands, but the figure has topped 200,000 after a surge in the numbers using freedom of movement laws to move from elsewhere in the EU.
The biggest increases in the last four years are from Romania (up 272 per cent), Greece (244 per cent), Spain (172 per cent), Italy (151 per cent), Portugal (137 per cent) and Cyprus (112 per cent).
A senior Tory minister told MailOnline: ‘The problem isn’t just the new countries like Romania and Bulgaria, it is people coming from countries like Spain, Italy and Greece because they can’t get work at home.
‘We need to be able to show that we can do something about that.’
The biggest increases have been from EU countries, with controls on immigration from other countries leading to drops in NINO registrations
Home Secretary Theresa May is already in talks with the German, Dutch and Austrian governments about tackling immigration across the EU.
Downing Street insists Mr Cameron will set out his plans in ‘due course’. The PM’s official spokesman said today: ‘If you look at countries around Europe, governments are looking at the impact of immigration.
‘The Prime Minister has for some time raised his concerns. Freedom of movement cannot be an unqualified principle of the European Union.
‘Do we need change? Clearly we do. We believe that there will be treaty change.’
However, the idea of imposing quotes on the number of people moving to Britain from elsewhere in the EU has been roundly criticised.
Outgoing European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday warned restricting migrant numbers would ‘not be in conformity with European laws’.
Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It almost definitely is illegal, but there is a bigger issue of principle.
‘It was Britain that promoted the single market in Europe. It was Mrs Thatcher biggest negotiating achievement.
‘There’re roughly the same amount of British people who leave and go to the rest of Europe as come here, and the ones who come here are overwhelmingly younger people, workers, and people who make a net positive contribution to the British budget.’
Bruno Macaes, secretary of state for European affairs in the Portuguese government, also said attempts to limit people from across the EU moving to Britain by capping the number of national insurance numbers for foreign workers would be illegal.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Yes, it seems that it goes not only against the directive that we have but against the treaty. Why?
Because it is limiting the numbers in absolute terms and that is not allowed.’
Tory MP Bernard Jenkin also said the plan would break existing EU law, but suggested it would still be a good idea.
He added: ‘I very much welcome people like Boris Johnson and the Prime Minister less explicitly saying that we do need to move to a quota system for EU migrants, simply because when we first joined the European Economic Community, as they were then, there were two fundamental differences.
‘First of all, the free movement principle was very undeveloped and we only had eight countries in the European Union.’
Mr Jenkin said he could not see ‘any other way that we can obtain the new relationship the Prime Minister wants us to have’ without taking such action or quitting the EU.
Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: ‘Businesses recognise that free movement of workers within the EU is a sensitive issue but are clear that it is an essential part of the single market.
‘It boosts the attraction of investing in the UK, creates jobs and offers firms here real benefits in working with our biggest trading partners.’