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Some people believe that EU migrant workers come to the UK to claim benefits, or to work in jobs that are low paid so that they can claim benefits like tax credits that can be sent back to their families at home elsewhere in Europe. Others believe that EU migrant workers ‘take’ jobs from UK workers and undercut wages and other labour standards.

The issue of migration was central in debates before the referendum about whether the UK should leave the EU. Following the referendum decision in favour of Brexit, Prime Minister, Theresa May, set out in a White Paper 12 principles that will guide the Government in 'fulfilling the democratic will of the people of the UK'. Among those principles was a promise to 'control immigration', motivated by concerns 'about pressure on public services, like schools and our infrastructure, especially housing' as well as what was described as the 'downward pressure [placed] on wages for people on the lowest incomes' because of the 'sheer volume' of immigration.

Our Work

Throughout 2016 and 2017, we will be exploring the experiences of people who come to work in the UK from other EU Member States. Our aim is to gather robust empirical evidence about EU migrants' experiences of finding work and being in employment in the UK, as well as exploring EU migrant workers’ use of social security, particularly in situations where work cannot be found or where pay is sufficiently low that it needs to be supplemented.

Our research project will examine:

  • law: what are EU migrant workers entitled to under EU and UK law?
  • practice: how many EU migrants claim benefits; what benefits do they claim and obtain; and what happens if they are turned down for benefits?
  • experience: what is it like being an EU migrant coming to the UK; what obstacles do migrants face and what are their hopes and expectations; what do they do to look for work and what use do they make of benefits; what help and support do migrants receive and from whom?

We will be interviewing migrant workers and spending time with organisations that work with migrant workers and businesses that employ them. We will also be holding focus groups and discussion events. We hope to be able to follow a small group of migrant workers and document on film their experiences of arriving in the UK and navigating the labour market and social security system. Alongside this work with migrant workers we will be exploring decisions of the Social Entitlement Chamber of the Upper Tier Tribunal to examine how many cases are brought by EU migrant workers, what those cases are about and how successful migrant workers are before tribunals.

By combining this insight with knowledge about the law in this field, we hope to shed new light on the big question of how we adequately regulate migration within a socio-economically diverse EU and a post-financial crisis context. We hope that this research project will help to inform public debate as we reconceive and renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU.

Information Sheets

You can download information about our research project in many different languages: Bulgarian, Czech, French, Greek, Italian, LithuanianPolish, Romanian, and Spanish.