Allies of the Prime Minister said the German plan showed that Mr Cameron was winning support in his attempt to overhaul rules allowing migrants to move freely throughout Europe.
However, there were suggestions that the move could also revive Tory infighting over immigration. Some of the party’s MPs said that yesterday’s draft proposals from a German government panel, under which EU migrants would be removed if they failed to find work within three months, should be adopted by Britain.
The calls came as Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, said that all migrants should be required to have a work permit. During a televised debate on the EU with Nick Clegg last night, he said it was complete madness to have an open door to half a billion people. The Lib Dem leader countered that EU migrants found begging in Britain were already sent home.
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At the start of the year, ministers rushed through a series of reforms to stem concerns about mass migration to Britain from Eastern Europe. None of the proposals, which included making EU migrants wait three months before receiving benefits, went as far as the proposed German crackdown.
Amid questions over whether expelling EU migrants would be legal, European Commission sources said that member states were entitled to refuse residency if a migrant was unemployed after three months and did not have the financial means to avoid being a burden on the host country.
Last month Angela Merkel gave a speech in London where she acknowledged British concerns over abuse of free movement within the EU and held the door open to limited, targeted and swift reform.
Nigel Mills, the Tory MP who led a rebellion over immigration, said yesterday that removing unemployed migrants was a sensible step forward.
“We have not gone as far as saying we will send people home if they have not found work. Even free movement to come and work should not be unrestricted, but this sounds like a very sensible proposal,” he said.
Dominic Raab, another influential Tory backbencher, also backed themove, saying: “Freedom of movement has never been unqualified, and it’s reasonable to expect those who come here to be self-reliant. This German report shows the Conservatives’ call for restrictions on EU migration was prescient not populist, and David Cameron’s influence with Angela Merkel is paying off.”
David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary and Tory leadership contender, said the move was eminently sensible. “It does not solve the problem of mass migration, but it is a first-class first step and very worthwhile,” he said. “I suspect where Germany leads, it will not just be us that follows. There will be a sizeable support group.”
Mrs Merkel commissioned the report into EU migration in January after public concern about the end of restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian citizens.
An interim version of the study, published yesterday, backed making it harder for migrants to claim child benefit and expelling those who have failed to find a job after three months.