Issues surrounding migrants access to welfare were raised in a discussion between David Cameron and Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz in Warsaw this morning.
Cameron has visited a number of European cities over the last 24 hours including Paris where he met with President Francois Hollande; he is also to visit Berlin today to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The talks are part of Cameron’s discussions over his desire to renegotiate EU reforms before holding the UK’s EU membership referendum.
One issue which Cameron wants to reform is to bar EU migrants from claiming work benefits such as tax breaks and child benefit until they have worked in the UK for four years. Migrants looking for work will also not be allowed to receive jobseeker benefits and will have to leave the UK after six months if they have not found work.
Bloomberg reported that Cameron and Kopacz ‘clashed’ over these discussions. A statement on the Polish Premier’s website said that she “strongly opposed measures that may lead to discrimination against Poles and other EU citizens seeking legal employment in the UK”.
Prior to the meeting, the Polish foreign minister Grzegorz Schetyna said on Polish TV: “We want Great Britain to stay in the EU. But the interest of Poles, our citizens who live in Great Britain is important.
Before the discussions, the Polish Europe minister, Rafal Trzaskowski, said in an interview with the BBC: “introducing something that will clearly be discriminatory, that’s a red line for Poland”. When pressed specifically about migrants not receiving in-work benefits he said: “When it comes to some of the social provisions, if we are able to find solutions that treat everybody in the same way, British people or people coming from the European Union then we might discuss them but if it is about making some more equal then obviously… that will be unacceptable for Poland.”
A spokesperson for David Cameron said: “On immigration and welfare, Prime Minister Kopacz welcomed the PM’s commitment to respect the principle of free movement. They agreed that there were issues concerning the interaction between free movement and national welfare systems that should be discussed further.”