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European union adds 10 eastern europe members

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New EU Citizens Must File to Work If Moving to U.K. (Update1)
Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- People from the 10 countries joining the European Union in May will have to register to work if they move to Britain, and they won't qualify for welfare unless they are employed, Home Secretary David Blunkett said.

``Those who come from the accession countries but do not work will not be able to claim benefits'' such as welfare payments or public housing, Blunkett told Parliament. The rule will apply at least until May 2006, he said. ``We will take every step to make sure our benefits system is not open to abuse.''

The rules are Prime Minister Tony Blair's response to pressure from opposition Conservative leader Michael Howard, who has said EU expansion will result in people moving to Britain from poorer nations such as Slovakia to get U.K. welfare benefits.

The entry of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Greek Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta will swell the EU to 25 countries with 450 million citizens. Britain, unlike EU members including Germany and France, has said it won't restrict the entry of the new EU citizens.

New EU citizens taking jobs in the U.K. will have to participate in a ``workers' registration scheme,'' entering the name of their employer and receiving a registration certificate, Blunkett said.

`Incumbent on Employer'

``It will be incumbent on the employer to ensure that their employee has registered,' Blunkett said.

Business leaders objected, saying Britain needs to allow new Europeans freedom to work in order to fill skill shortages in the world's fourth-biggest economy. Unemployment in January was 2.9 percent, the lowest in 28 years.

``We will not support measures that mean greater administrative and regulatory burdens on businesses as part of the immigration process,'' David Frost, head of the British Chambers of Commerce, said in an e-mailed statement.

``It is the government's job to assess a candidate's eligibility to live and work here, and it is not for business to police the system,'' said Frost, whose group is Britain's No. 2 business lobby.

Frost said he ``welcomed'' the government's decision against a cap on the number of people allowed to come to Britain, as Howard had suggested.

Skill Shortages

The Confederation of British Industry, the U.K.'s biggest business lobby, said last month that immigration is needed to fill skill shortages.

The U.K. Treasury in April 2002 increased its forecast of average economic growth to 2.75 percent from 2.5 percent, based on net migration of at least 146,000 workers every year.

``Proper, legally managed migration is good for Britain,'' Blunkett told Parliament.

Blair, who must call an election by June 2006, has said he won't restrict the new Europeans' rights to enter Britain. After criticism from Howard, he stepped back from that position.

Immigration is moving up the British political agenda. Howard's call for curbs on immigration has been backed by the Sun and the Daily Mail, the country's two biggest-selling daily tabloid newspapers.

Blair won the last election, in 2001, by a landslide. Polls show the Conservatives are drawing level with his Labour Party.

Labour had the backing of 36 percent of voters and the Conservatives had 35 percent, according to a MORI/Financial Times poll of 1,990 people surveyed Feb. 12-16. MORI didn't give a margin of error.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Kirkup at
Westminster on

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