A controversial government review into European migration has encountered something of an obstacle, in the form of home secretary Theresa May.
The Balance of Competences review was due to be released yesterday, as part of a set of documents evaluating the UK's relationship with the EU, but has been delayed by May, reports the Times. Her stalling comes in the midst of an escalating row on benefits tourism.
The home secretary has been accused of deliberately waylaying the review because of her dissatisfaction with what it says on European migration into Britain.
Times sources have said that she was concerned that much of the review's evidence was broadly optimistic when it comes to current rules for freedom of movement.
One Whitehall source told the Times: “The whole point of the process is that you want it run according to the rules with the reports based on the evidence, rather than trying to turn them into a political exercise spinning the aims of one side or the other.”
The review's now due to be released in the new year, which would give the home office some watering-down time. The problem for the government is that too many positive voices in the immigration debate could undermine its benefits tourism crackdown.
A recent poll by Ipsos Mori revealed that 76 per cent of people think immigration is too high, with just two per cent saying it's too low.
More bizarrely, the mean estimate of those polled in answer to "what percentage of the UK population do you think are immigrants to this country?" was 31 per cent. The actual percentage is 13. When given the 13 per cent figure, 46 per cent of people still maintained that it was "much higher" than that.
But neither public opinion nor May's can alter the benefits freedom of movement brings to the UK. Here are three of them:
Research by former HMRC official Michael O’Connor shows that migrant workers in the UK are far more likely to claim in-work benefits than out of work benefits.
They're far less likely than UK nationals to claim incapacity benefits, Jobseeker’s Allowance, lone parent or carer benefits, disability benefits, or bereavement benefits.
O'Connor shows that migrants claim working tax credit at a 20 per cent higher rate than natives, and that more claim this specific benefit than all other benefits put together.
This summer an international study revealed that immigrants have improved the UK's public finances by contributing more to the state than they take out. The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the so-called net fiscal impact of immigrants was the equivalent of 0.46 per cent of GDP – billions of pounds, on average – from 2007-09.
The OECD said: “Migration represents neither a significant gain nor drain for the public purse. Immigrants are pretty much like the rest of the population in this respect.”
Payments from migrants working in the UK back to their home counties improve life quality and contribute to economic growth.
According to a 2008 paper, moving from Haiti, Nigeria or Egypt to the US or UK can boost a migrant’s income by 1,000 per cent.
And, approaching $400bn globally, they're also a pretty efficient form of development aid.