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Britain ups stakes in immigrants row

Tuesday, November 04, 2014 - 02:19

Britain's Prime Minister has shrugged off German anxiety about his plans to curb immigration from the EU. David Pollard asks if he's playing a dangerous game by tackling what has become a major public concern regardless.

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The French port of Calais. For many, a journey's beginning - but for many thousands trying to cross illegally to Britain, it's where the journey ends. Some try to board trucks bound for the UK - and get caught. Others bide their time in camps. Once again, immigration is a hot topic - UK prime minister David Cameron's pledge to curb OE migrants prompting dark hints from Germany over the UK's very existence in the EU bloc. UK finance minister, George Osborne, says the issue will not go away. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (FINANCE MINISTER), GEORGE OSBORNE, SAYING: "What you need to know about David Cameron and the Conservatives is that we will fight for Britain's interest, we will make sure that Britain gets a fair deal in Europe, and we will make sure that the British people have the final say in a referendum." The row raises the prospect of Britain becoming a bit more like Switzerland. It's preparing a referendum on immigration at the end of the month - the second this year. Many see Cameron playing to his own MPs - and the anti-EU UKIP party - ahead of an election. But the threat of a real rift is there, says Christian Schulz of Berenberg. (SOUNDBITE) (English): CHRISTIAN SCHULZ, SENIOR ECONOMIST, BERENBERG BANK, SAYING: ''The German statement here is very, very clear. Free movement of labour is a very, very important concept of the EU. If that's violated, then the underlying cause or the underlying sense of the single market is also undermined and therefore that's a red line that cannot be changed.'' AXA's chief economist Eric Chaney agrees. (SOUNDBITE) (English): ERIC CHANEY, CHIEF ECONOMIST AXA GROUP, SAYING: ''There are a lot of people in the UK in the corporate world who think that the UK outside of EU would be bad for business, so maybe things will change. But we have to take on board this possibility that the UK could leave the UK starting in 2017.'' And, in fact, the UK business lobby, the CBI, has slammed what it calls "incorrect, emotive debates around immigration" as damaging to the UK economy. One option for Cameron may be to seek common ground with Germany on curbing immigrants' freedom to claim benefits - rather than freedom of movement itself. He's pledged to set out new ideas about how to tackle the issue by the year end. But it's a tricky dilemma. Compromise and risk losing face ahead of an election - or commit to curbs on immigrants - and expose Britain to the risk of an even more isolated future?

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Britain ups stakes in immigrants row

Tuesday, November 04, 2014 - 02:19