UK Politics

Poland warning over David Cameron EU migrant benefits plan

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Media captionPoland's deputy foreign minister set out its "red line" stance

Poland will not accept David Cameron's proposal to stop EU migrants claiming benefits for four years, its deputy foreign minister has said.

Rafal Trzaskowski said any plans to discriminate on grounds of nationality would be a "red line" issue.

Poland was ready to discuss introducing a system under which all citizens, including from the UK, had to pay in before receiving benefits, he said.

The UK PM has admitted his plans would need EU support to succeed.

Mr Trzaskowski told the BBC's Newsnight Poland was ready to oppose the proposals as they stand.

Changing the rules

"If one wants to get away with all the benefits that are enshrined in the regulation of the EU and treat immigrants from the EU differently, and for example only pay benefits after four years of their stay in Britain or extradite people who can't find work, that would be against all the existing laws of the EU and obviously that would be a red line for us," he said.

"The Polish government is quite ready to talk about abuses of existing systems, sham marriages, extraditing criminals and so forth.

"But to be truthful this is not the problem - it is marginal. When it comes to changing the rules in the EU, when it comes to social support and so forth, when it comes to undermining the existing laws, obviously we are going to react quite strongly and we are going to be against.

"But the most important thing is that David Cameron wants to talk about it and doesn't want to change policies unilaterally."

He added: "This is an absolute red line, that there is no discrimination on grounds of nationality."

'Rule nothing out'

"If Britain were to change its policy, for example, into a contributory system in which everyone has to pay in to get some money from the system, we then could talk about changes if they were absolutely non-discriminatory," he said.

Mr Cameron has said lower EU migration would be a priority in future negotiations over the UK's membership and he would "rule nothing out" if he did not get the changes he wanted.

He said he was confident he could change the basis of EU migration into the UK and therefore campaign for the UK to stay in the EU in a future referendum planned for 2017.

But he warned, in a speech on Friday, that if the UK's demands fell on "deaf ears" he would "rule nothing out" - the strongest hint to date he could countenance the UK leaving the EU.

In reaction to Mr Cameron's speech Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Cameron had made a "no ifs, to buts" promise at the last general election to get migration down and he had "no credibility" on the issue.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the prime minister should have apologised for missing his immigration target, said he was "playing catch-up" with UKIP and said the only way to get control over Britain's borders was to leave the EU.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said some of the proposals were "sensible and workable" but said there were "very serious question marks" over others, including deporting jobseekers after six months if they had not found work.

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