By Jonathan Davies

Prime Minister David Cameron has issued a strong warning to EU migrants, saying they must contribute to the UK economy for a minimum of four years before they are allowed to claim in-work benefits.

In a major speech on immigration, Mr Cameron outlined a set of proposals that will be pursued by the Conservative Party if it wins the general election in May.

The proposals include:

- Stopping immigrants from claiming in-work benefits such as tax credits and social housing for four years.

- Stopping immigrants from claiming child benefits from children living outside the UK.

- Forcing immigrants to leave the country if they have not found work within six months.

- Restricting immigrants' rights to bring family members with them.

- Improving deportation speeds of criminal immigrants.

- Extending re-entry bans for beggars and fraudsters.

'We deserve to be heard'

The speech follows yesterday's (Thursday) figures which showed that net migration had risen above 2010 levels. The Labour Party claimed that the Conservatives had promised to get migration below 100,000 - but this was never made a target due to Liberal Democrat opposition.

The Prime Minister said that if the proposals "deaf ears" with Europe, he will "rule nothing out", giving the clearest indication yet that he would be prepared to pull out of the EU.

"We deserve to be heard and we must be heard," he added.

"Here is an issue which matters to the British people and to our future of the European Union.

"The British people will not understand - frankly I will not understand - if a sensible way through cannot be found, which will help settle this country's place in the EU once and for all."

The Institute of Directors (IoD) welcomed the measures announced by the Prime Minister.

Director General of the IoD, Simon Walker said: "...there are no simple solutions to what has become a politically disruptive issue. IoD members have welcomed — and benefited from — immigrants from other EU member states who work diligently and effectively, often in jobs for which there are few British applicants.

“But business cannot be deaf to broader public concern. There is genuine disquiet about pressure on schools and hospitals in many parts of the country. It is important that all immigrants come to the UK with a purpose and a willingness to contribute productively to the community.

“Freedom of movement does not imply the right to claim welfare benefits. The PM rightly points out that these are significantly higher in Britain than in France or Germany. The IoD wants to see hard-working and able European workers growing the British economy: that is not the same as extending an already-debilitating benefits culture to those entering the country."

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “Businesses agree that we must ensure the system rewards those here to work, not the few who do not contribute. But the EU matters to the future of British jobs and growth so we must work with allies to secure reform.

“The Government and businesses need to do more to ensure growth benefits everyone and that means not only helping more people into work, but equipping them with the skills they need to move up the career ladder.”

Immigration has become a key political issue with the general election looming. UKIP's stance over the country's relationship with the EU and immigration winning them support in some areas.

At the moment, EU migrants have complete freedom of movement to any country within the Union, without facing any immigration controls.

What do you think about the proposals? Should immigrants be made to work in the UK for four years before they are allowed to claim benefits? Should things be left as they are, or are you completely against immigration? Let us know on Twitter @freshbusiness

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