Dutch minister’s call for EU migration reform reflects eurosceptic mood

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch deputy premier has urged the European Union to deal with the “negative consequences” of unprecedented levels of labour migration within the bloc, calling for a new common approach to one of the EU’s most cherished principles.

Lodewijk Asscher, who is also social affairs minister, wrote in De Volkskrant newspaper yesterday that migration from the poorer, newer entrants to the 28-member European Union was crowding some western Europeans out of the labour market.

“If we want to continue to profit from the benefits of free movement, then we have to be ready to tackle the negative side-effects, from crowding out to the exploitation (of immigrants),” he said in the article, which was co-signed by David Goodhart, a British campaigner for restrictions on immigration.

His comments echo similar remarks by senior British politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron. Britain and the Netherlands have also both called for Brussels to hand back some of its decision-making powers to sovereign governments, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte saying in June that he wanted to see “a smaller, leaner and meaner Europe.”

Asscher stopped short of calling for restrictions on free movement of labour, which would require a new treaty. He argued for rules to punish companies that exploit immigrant labour, both to protect immigrants and prevent companies that stuck to the rules from being priced out of the market.

He gave few details, but said the debate over labour migration should be “high on the agenda” in Brussels.

In raising questions about the free movement of labour, one of the most fundamental principles underlying the European Union, Asscher is reflecting a growing eurosceptic mood in the Netherlands.

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