David Cameron wants to put Britain first. Not by giving the British people a long awaited referendum on their future in Europe, nor by cutting taxes and protecting civil liberties, but by promising for perhaps the sixth time over the past year to break European law by limiting benefits for EU migrants in the UK after three months.
Not all benefits, mind, such as in-work benefits and child benefit, the ones that cost the UK taxpayer £5 billion pounds each year, but only the relatively cheap unemployment benefits that are only accessed by an estimated 60,100 EU migrants per year.
Regardless of its inefficacy, Cameron’s latest “crackdown” on EU migration is illegal under Article 9 of the Treaty on the European Union and Articles 18, 20, 45 and 48 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, with Article 48 clearly stating that it is illegal for member states to treat EU citizens differently, including “the payment of benefits to persons resident in the territories of Member States”.
This is so far from viable under EU law that the European Commission has already announced an investigation. Cameron is not stupid, only dishonest; he knows this cannot be implemented. But, in a desperate attempt to beat UKIP at their own game, he is apparently willing to say and do whatever it takes, including posing for staged photos with immigration officers as he lies through his teeth to the public.
But what is worse, this grand promise by Cameron is not only illegal but illiberal.
If implemented, his immigration proposals will affect ordinary British citizens, particularly healthcare professionals and landlords. One little reported consequence of the Immigration Act is that from November there will be a transfer of responsibility for preventing illegal immigration, and enforcing this hair-brained scheme, from government to landlords, private ones included.
I’ve written often about the excessive regulations, charges and general chip-on-shoulder negativity levelled at private landlords. Cameron’s proposals will take this one step further; under Section 22 it will become illegal for a landlord to give tenancy to a person without the correct immigration status, subject to a £3,000 per tenant, not per property, if they fail to carry out “adequate” checks.
This will include any person living in the property not just those listed on the tenancy agreement, a potential minefield for landlords whose tenants are sub-letting under their noses, or even spouses. It is also an affront to current legislation banning spot checks and a roster of anti-discrimination legislation that supplements the mountain of EU law that renders this, yet again, entirely illegal. What is more, if a landlord applies different screening criteria to “foreign” appearing tenants they could be charged for discrimination.
It is sheer, unadulterated, bureaucratic madness and yet another headache for private landlords, around 75 percent of whom own just three properties or fewer and are engaged full-time in other forms of employment. The negative impacts on an already stagnating lettings market are potentially huge but of course Cameron would never let reality get in the way of a headline; a skill, along with rampant dishonesty, he may well have acquired through so much time spent with Nick Clegg.
In essence, these proposals turn unsuspecting landlords into a quasi-border police expected to operate within the already grey area of immigration law, at risk of fines if they fall short.
And fall short they will. Britain simply lacks the facilities to perform adequate entry and exit checks for EU nationals. The law also states that if migrants’ three months of benefits are up they may be allowed to stay if they have “very clear job prospects”, a term so vague it is rendered meaningless.
As a landlord, I would never think to question a prospective tenant as to how long, precisely, they have been in the country, their benefits status or indeed their future plans past paying me my next rent cheque. It simply should not be the job of private landlords to regulate immigration, legal or otherwise; we are not – or at least should not be – a tentacle of the state.
This week, unelected president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, stated his dream for all the Balkan states to join The EU; aware of public dismay, he admitted the EU institutions will “do it anyway”.
Keeping in mind that the EU is currently considering applications from Serbia, Montenegro and Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia, and desperately wishes to do the same with Ukraine it will indeed expand and with it free movement of peoples, all the while public spirit turns further against unlimited EU migration and David Cameron is caught in the middle, forced to make promises he legally cannot keep.
It appears that in order to partake in neo-European “liberalism”, by embracing the open border policy implicit in EU membership, we will be forced to become deeply illiberal at home. These proposals are expensive, bureaucratic nonsense designed to pass the buck of responsibility from the state to the individual, all as part of a desperate attempt by David Cameron to lull the public into gifting him a second term.
Cameron is attempting to convince voters, many of whom are turning to UKIP, that he will create a system where you cannot expect to come to Britain and get something for nothing. The thing is, Dave, you can. As one of a handful of pro-immigration UKIP sympathisers, even I can see through this pathetic attempt at confusing UK voters, the votes of whom Cameron & co believe are theirs by right.
The suggested laws will endanger our traditions of freedom and liberty as the authorities force private citizens to become part of the forces of the state. By threatening private landlords into fighting at the front line of the government’s failed immigration policy, we see just how false liberalism, in the guise of an open door migration policy, results in real authoritarianism in the conscription of individual citizens into a sort of quasi-border force.
Shouldn’t they just be honest about it and give us all uniforms?