The migration crisis will help the UK win much needed support in the bid to curb immigration rules across the EU, according to British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. He suggested the humanitarian crisis, which has seen thousands of refugees flee from war torn Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea to the continent, has "focused" the minds of European leaders.
"The fact that Europe is facing the challenge...of migration flows within Europe of newly arrived migrants, is perhaps focusing the attention of some people, in a way that hadn't been focused before, about the challenges that migration at scale presents. And that's been our argument all along," Reuters reported the top Tory saying.
Hammond explained that the new attention paid to the issue will soften the minds of some European leaders, who may have previously opposed or held doubts about the UK government's proposal to stop EU workers in Britain from claiming in-work-benefits for four years.
The plan is one of the main policies in David Cameron's ongoing renegotiation with Brussels ahead of a referendum on the UK's membership of the 28-member bloc. The prime minister has promised to hold the historic vote by the end of 2017 and some reports have suggested it could come as early as April next year.
Hammond also revealed on 22 September that the Conservative government does not plan to start the renegotiation proper with the EU and the union's leaders until after Polish parliamentary election on 25 October. Hammond's comments come as some EU countries have decided to renege on the free-movement treaty, the Schengen agreement, as thousands of refugees travel across the continent. Notably, Germany reintroduced temporary border checks after facing mounting pressure from the crisis.
Meanwhile, the UK government has promised to take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the course of this parliament, which is due to end in May 2020. Cameron stressed that his administration would take the people from UN camps so as not to incentivise the refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea.