I haven't written much before now on the upcoming EU referendum because the focus of debate—at least, as framed by the Tories—centres on matters which are of very little concern to me. Indeed, I think that by focusing on these things rather than matters which should be of much more fundamental concern about what the EU is doing, or shows every sign of doing in the near future, we are actually reducing the chances of getting the EU reforms we really need.
Here is a short clip from last night's news which shows the hypocrisy behind David Cameron's stance on immigrants receiving in-work benefits.
Anyone who gives the matter any thought at all will be able to see the fundamental flaw in his argument. Our system is set up in such a way that every single non-immigrant will, as he puts it, "get benefits out of the system" before we put a single penny into the system. A very great deal of benefits, in fact.
Everyone who has grown up in the UK will have benefitted from years of completely free education and health care provided by the state; and will almost certainly have made use of free social services and facilities provided by local authorities. On top of this, the government will have made direct cash payments for each child while they are growing up.
Looked at in broad terms, a person will only start "paying into the system" when they start work (apart from paying a little tax in the form of VAT on purchases) and it will probably take twenty years or so before the taxes they've paid into the UK system balance the benefits they took out of the system while they were growing up. On average, a person will probably "break even" in their forties; then for the next twenty years or so they will be net contributors to the benefits system; then they will retire and take money out of they system again in pension payments and increased health and social care. In round terms: 20 years of taking from the system, 20 years of paying it off, 20 years of being a net contributor to the system, 20 years to get it back again.
Now consider the position of a newly-arrived immigrant working in the UK. From the very first day they will be a net contributor to the UK system because of the tax and national insurance they pay.
That is why it is utterly offensive for Cameron to suggest that we should stop immigrants receiving in-work benefits for any amount of time, let alone four years. An immigrant receiving in-work benefits is certainly not getting "something for nothing". In fact, they will be anything up to 20 years ahead of the average UK citizen in terms of paying into our system.
Looking at the bigger picture, if there is any issue that should be addressed, it is the fact that the UK is benefitting from the education and expertise of immigrants at the expense of the country they have come from. It should be a very major source of concern that the UK encourages, for example, qualified doctors, nurses and other health professionals to work in our national health services. This holds true for all immigration, not just immigration from within the EU. Indeed, as has been said many times by many people, our NHSs wouldn't survive without them.