David Cameron has been told by no less than three European Prime Ministers that there will be no change to the EU's rules on the free movement of people.
The PMs of Sweden, Finland and Norway said free movement of labour was a principle that could not be undermined. David Cameron was given the frank verdict of EU leaders during meetings in the Finnish capital of Helsinki at a summit of nine northern European countries.
Finland's Prime Minister told the BBC's Nick Robinson:
European integration is basically based on four freedoms the free movement of goods, services, money and labour. In that sense, I think it's something rather holy as a principle.
Sweden's PM was even more forthright:
The fact that one country believes something is wrong doesn't mean that we can change because every country might have its own priorities, and they may ruin the whole European Union.
Norway's PM struck a more conciliatory tone, saying it was important to look at the regulation surrounding welfare payments to immigrants. David Cameron was recently warned by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that “Germany will not tamper with the fundamental principles of free movement in the EU".
The strong defence of free movement of labour by countries seen as Britain's natural allies will present the Prime Minister with yet another headache in his attempts to head-off Ukip and UK and scout out areas for a possible renegotiation of Britain's EU membership.
The comments by EU leaders follow the results of a study conducted by researchers at University College London that found between 1995 and 2011 EU migrants added £4.4bn more to the public purse than they took out over the 17 year period.
Professor Christian Dustmann, co-author of the study, said:
A key concern in the public debate on migration is whether immigrants contribute their fair share to the tax and welfare systems. Our new analysis draws a positive picture of the overall fiscal contribution made by recent immigrant cohorts, particularly of immigrants arriving from the EU.