John Major has made a useful intervention in the debate about the EU and immigration. He appeared on the Andrew Marr show on BBC1 this morning, following on his well reported speech last week in Germany.
Major repeated his view that the UK has a “particular problem” with the numbers of migrants arriving from other EU states. However, he went on to say that he believes there are some “practical steps” that could be taken which would not “infringe the principle (of free movement) but do meet the problem”. It would be interesting to know what these “practical steps” are which would not infringe the free movement principle, but they are presumably being studied now by David Cameron before he makes a much heralded speech on immigration later this year.
It occurs to me that the PM may be considering a proposal to “control” or “monitor” EU migrants in some way. This might involve interviewing them on arrival at airports, or requiring them to attend an interview at a Job Centre within a specified time after their arrival, to discuss the steps they are taking to find employment or otherwise settle in the UK. They might then be required to attend a further interview after a period of, say, three or four months, to assess whether they have been able to find employment.
Whether such a requirement would be compatible with EU law is of course critical, but EU laws can be quite vague in their scope and something of this nature might just be possible. There would also of course be the practical issue of how to separate EU migrants intent on finding work from short term tourists and visitors (and returning EU citizens who have already settled in the UK), who must arrive in vast numbers each day. In any case, we will discover when David Cameron makes his speech exactly what his proposals are.