Boris Johnson, Mayor of London suggested the idea. Now No. 10 is letting it be believed that it is considering a cap on immigration to the UK from the EEA.
It is hard to see how such a proposed cap could be consistent with the central treaty commitment of free movement [Ed- immigration barrister says a simple overall cap would not be lawful]. Whilst some other European nations are hearing similar anti-Euro-immigration rhetoric from their politicians, the promises made are different in kind.
In Germany, for example, there is talk about limiting the period for which immigrants can stay whilst unemployed (possibly through careful construction of the Treaty concept of exercise of treaty rights). In France there is talk of cracking down on “abus”of social security benefits (the European laws on benefits are very much more flexible than those on free movement).
This is more than just a difference of opinion. Imposing a cap in the way suggested would require a change to the Treaty and this is impossible without unanimity. French PM has stated unequivocally that he would not support such a change. And others may express the same view (if asked).
Ourtgoing European Commission president José Manuel Barroso stated an arbitrary cap on immigration into Britain will never be accepted by the European Union… it would give rise to first and second class citizens within the EU and would not be agreed by member states.
So, what are the Torys on about? Did they forget about the Treaty obligation? Do they expect the rest of Europe to follow its iead? Do they need to consult their own immigration lawyers, or is this just another “great deceit”, a cheap ploy to win naive political support?
This immigration blog post: Immigration Lawyer Jeremy Chipperfield, practising from the chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, Chancery Lane, also writes at Immigration Barrister website www.iBarristersChambers.com