Labour have joined the fight back against UKIP as they try to claim they will be tough on EU immigration.
In an article for the Mail Online, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves claimed that Labour would ‘put fairness and responsibility at the heart of Britain’s welfare system by restricting benefits which jobseekers from the EU can claim.’
Writing that she had spoken to ministers from France and Germany about changing the rules on benefits, she said that the current systems was ‘never designed for the levels of migration we are seeing now.’
But this was slammed by opposition parties who point out that it was a Labour government who oversaw eight countries from Eastern Europe have unrestricted access to the UK jobs market and social security system.
At the time Prime Minister Tony Blair used a report from Germany which said that only 13,000 migrants would come to the UK from the new accession countries. This was ridiculed by many eurosceptics and migration groups who said that the draw of Britain’s welfare policies and the language would see hundreds of thousands come.
Ms Reeves said that Labour would ‘stop the absurdity of sending child benefit abroad’, something which was highlighted for years by UKIP and has already been discussed by Mr Cameron and other EU leaders including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In addition, she said Labour would ban jobseekers from claiming out-of-work benefits for two years, a decision which is likely to fall foul of the EU Treaties which take precedence over UK law.
‘David Cameron has failed to deliver the changes our country needs’ she wrote, adding ‘Labour will work with other countries in Europe to get a better deal for Britain.’
It was Labour who stopped British voters from having a say on firstly the EU Constitution and then the Lisbon Treaty which it replaced. Foreign Secretary David Miliband signed the document which saw huge swathes of power transferred from Westminster to Brussels. Their MPs then voted against a nationwide referendum.
Performing a U-turn over the spiteful rhetoric Labour have used over recent years, Ed Miliband used a speech last week to say it is not ‘prejudiced to worry about the effects of immigration’.
He told the audience ‘A sense of fairness means that we can’t simply allow wages to be undercut. A sense of fairness means that entitlement to benefits should be earned, so you contribute for longer before you claim.’
Mr MIliband has tried to make Labour the champion of the ‘Living Wage’ whilst ignoring the fact that uncontrolled immigration and a huge oversupply in the unskilled Labour market meant that the minimum wage became the maximum wage and put a strain on the exchequer as more people relied on working tax credits to make ends meet.
Ms Reeves wrote that she still believed Brtain should be part of the European UNion, highlighting the ‘economic benefits’ of membership which Labour have frequently said is about investment and jobs.
But she concedes: ‘We have to listen to the real concerns that people have about how immigration is being managed.’
Labour almost lost a recent by election to anti-EU UKIP, scraping through by only 600 votes in Heywood and Middleton. And they were pushed into third place again in the European Elections in May.
UKIP Migration spokesman Steven Woolfe said “Ed Miliband’s Labour Party are twisting themselves into knots trying to be UKIP, while trying to attack UKIP at the same time. This new idea of theirs will somehow, magically have to circumvent the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which the Labour Party keeps repeating its commitment to.”
“UKIP’s position on this is very simple, and is the only honest policy out there. To control all issues surrounding migration, including benefits, Britain would have to leave the European Union. Anyone claiming anything otherwise is either wilfully deceiving the British public.”
A Tory source told the Mail Online: ‘Nobody will believe a word Labour say on immigration or welfare.
‘They let immigration and the welfare bill get totally out of control and they have opposed every single step we’ve taken to bring them back under control as part of our long-term economic plan.
‘And because they oppose the Prime Minister’s plan to negotiate reform in Europe, followed by an in-out referendum, Labour have no credible way to deliver the real change that Britain needs.’
A recent survey showed that only 16 per cent of people thought Labour had the best policy on immigration and asylum.