Juncker says UK 'beating up' poor Europeans: report
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker accused Britain's prime minister of "beating up" poor European immigrant workers with plans to restrict their access to public assistance, The Guardian reported Saturday.
Juncker, whose appointment as commission chief was bitterly opposed by Prime Minister David Cameron, warned that proposals outlined last month to restrict low wage European workers' access to tax credits and social housing could eventually threaten Britain's key financial sector.
"Especially in Great Britain, which always fought for the enlargement of the European Union, there has to be an end to discrimination against countries just because it goes down well topically when you beat up others," he was quoted as saying by The Guardian during a television panel discussion in Austria.
"I am utterly against behaving as if all Poles, all Romanians, all Bulgarians in the European labour market are of a basic mentality that is criminal. These are people who are working and earning their wages."
Cameron has dampened talk of restricting the number of European workers moving to Britain following German leader Angela Merkel's cool response, and has instead shifted his focus to welfare curbs.
Juncker warned of the knock-on effects for Britain of Cameron's plans.
"This fundamental right of free movement of workers cannot be questioned existentially because if you question the free movement of workers, Great Britain has to know that one day the free movement of capital will also be called into question.
"Then it will be the end for London's tax rulings," he said.
A spokesman from Cameron's office responded that "the British people were right to want controlled immigration and that free movement was not an unqualified right."
© 2014 AFP