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Cameron announces tougher stance on benefits for EU migrants

Tougher measures have been set out for migrants from eastern Europe, designed to deter benefit tourism from Romania and Bulgaria.

The UK is required by the EU to lift transitional controls of migrants from these countries in January.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that migrants will no longer be eligible for benefits until after three months residence, and then for a maximum of six months, if they can prove that they have “a genuine prospect of employment”.

The measures have been supported by the Liberal Democrats, but Laszlo Andor, the EU employment commissioner, warned that it risked presenting the UK as a “nasty country”.

Newly arrived jobseekers will no longer be able to claim housing benefit and rough sleepers will be deported and barred from re-entry. Claimants for benefits such as income support will first have to meet a new minimum earnings threshold.

Writing in the Financial Times, Cameron said: “If people are not here to work – if they are begging or sleeping rough – they will be removed. They will then be barred from re-entry for 12 months, unless they can prove they have a proper reason to be here, such as a job.”

He added: “In 2004, the Labour government made the decision that the UK should opt out completely of transitional controls on the new EU member states. They had the right to impose a seven-year ban before new citizens could come and work here, but – almost alone in Europe – Labour refused it. That was a monumental mistake.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “These are sensible and reasonable reforms to ensure that the right to work does not automatically mean the right to claim. Other countries in the EU already have similar policies and are considering the case for going further. Unfettered access to benefits across member states simply does not exist.”

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