An arbitrary cap on the number of migrants coming to the UK from within the EU would be incompatible with European law, outgoing president Jose Manuel Barroso has warned.

He made the remarks in the context of reports that the Prime Minister could limit the number of national insurance numbers issued to low-skilled migrants from EU countries in an effort to cut immigration from within the 28-member bloc.

Mr Barroso refused to speak about the proposal specifically on the grounds it had not been presented, but insisted “in principle” a cap on free movement would be in contradiction of EU rules.

Mr Barroso’s non negotiable stance on a cap will come as a blow to David Cameron who has restated his promise to put measures to control EU migration at the heart of his plans to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Brussels.

The Sunday Times reported that Mr Cameron was considering using a cap on national insurance numbers to bring migration from within the EU under control.

The newspaper said the plans being drawn up in Downing Street would see new arrivals being given a national insurance number for a temporary period, preventing them from working and claiming tax credits in the UK indefinitely.

The report said the move would be illegal under EU freedom of movement laws, but Mr Cameron could signal he is prepared to leave the EU if he could not achieve a deal.

Cabinet minister Justine Greening told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme that free movement of labour was “never meant to be a totally unqualified principle”.

The International Development Secretary said: “Although we have managed to bring non-EU migration levels down to the lowest level since the 90s, we do need to see action taken in relation to immigration that’s within the EU.

“That means taking a fundamental look at some of the rules that allow unrestricted immigration in a way that we don’t think is sensible.”

Asked about the national insurance proposals, she said: “I think the Government is looking at a whole range of ways in which we could see the European policy around migration work more effectively, but also what we can do right here in the UK as well.”
Source: Extract from an article – Evening Standard