The Conservatives are mulling over the idea of an “emergency brake” on immigration from EU member states, following UKIP’s rapid gains.
UKIP’s success at last week’s Clacton byelection, and the possibility of a UKIP second seat win for Tory defector Mark Reckless, at Rochester and Strood, has driven David Cameron to look at new initiatives to curb immigration.
According to the Financial Times, there is some existing framework within current EU treaties that allows members to suspend particular freedoms in emergencies, though no specific immigration directive currently exists.
However, any suspensions are usually due to emergency conditions such as war, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, rather than the movement of people – one of the key principles of the union.
In the past, Cameron has said he would like to see longer transition periods between countries becoming members and their populations gaining full labour market access, the FT reports.
Another alternative is that a quota system could be implemented to curb migrants from a particular country when they reach a certain level. Should Cameron wish to pursue this direction he is likely to find significant obstacles from other member states.
UKIP’s growing fanfare means that the Tories are keen to act fast to pacifying those questioning the government’s commitment to lowering levels of immigration.
Downing Street described reports of an “emergency brake” as “speculation”, but the idea has gained currency in senior Conservative circles over the past months, according to the FT.