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The Cambridge Migration Research Network

Studying at Cambridge


EU Migrant Worker Project

Professor Catherine Barnard and Dr Amy Ludlow lead new ESRC research project on EU workers in the UK


Professor Catherine Barnard (Trinity College, Cambridge) has been awarded a prestigious ESRC Senior Fellowship as part of The UK in a Changing Europe Project ( Throughout 2016 Catherine will work together with Dr Amy Ludlow (Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge) to gather empirical evidence about the experiences of EU migrants living and working in the UK and to explore whether the UK benefit system is acting as a pull factor to the UK.

Background to the Project

Migration is a highly politicised issue in the UK, and the role of migrant workers from the EU is particularly sensitive. Unlike some other EU Member States, the UK did not impose restrictions on the admission of workers coming from the so-called EU-8 countries (such as Poland and the Czech Republic), apart from the requirement to register under the Workers Registration Scheme. Over a million EU-8 workers, taking advantage of their free movement rights under Article 45 TFEU, arrived in the UK after 2004. They enjoy rights to equal treatment not only in respect of their terms and conditions of employment, but also in respect of any social and tax advantages offered to domestic workers. This includes the payment of child benefit, an exportable benefit under Regulation 883/2004, and ‘in-work benefits’, such as tax credits. The combined effect of these EU rules and the nature of the UK’s welfare system (especially some of its universalist benefits) has led to accusations that the UK has become a ‘honeypot nation ( This has become a key issue in the debate about the UK’s membership of the EU, which will be the subject of a referendum, possibly in the summer of 2016. By gathering empirical evidence about EU migrants' experiences of navigating the labour market and social security system in the UK, we hope to increase our understanding of EU and domestic law as it works in practice and to inform public opinion in anticipation of the referendum and beyond.

Getting Involved

We are keen to speak with anyone who can contribute relevant experiences or insights. We are especially keen to speak to EU migrant workers who either will shortly depart their home Member State in search of work in the UK or are currently living in the UK. We hope that some of these discussions will form part of a short documentary.

We intend to host a project launch roundtable discussion event on Friday 26 February 2016 2-5pm, B16, Faculty of Law. Further details are provided below. Please get in touch if you might be interested in participating.


If you would like to contact us please email or tweet @eumigrantworker. You can also contact us on Facebook and find more information about our work on our project website

Project Launch Roundtable Discussion

Time to Rethink EU Free Movement of Persons? A Roundtable Discussion

Friday 26 February 2016 2-5pm, B16, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Site

Some people believe that EU migrant workers come to the UK in order to claim benefits, or to work in jobs that are low paid so that they can claim in work benefits like tax credits. Others believe that EU migrant workers ‘take’ jobs from UK workers and undercut wages and other labour standards. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, takes the view that EU migration to the UK is inflating the costs of social security and burdening over-stretched public services. He is currently seeking changes to the EU Treaty rules on free movement as part of his negotiations with the EU prior to the UK’s referendum about EU membership in 2016/17.

In this roundtable discussion experts on EU migration law consider the pull factors that bring EU migrants to the UK, what we know about migrants’ experiences once they are living and working in the UK, and prospects for reform.

Following the roundtable participants are warmly invited to attend the Centre for European Legal Studies’ annual Mackenzie Stuart Lecture, at 5.30pm in the Faculty of Law. This year’s lecture will be given by Advocate General Julianne Kokott who will discuss ‘Investment Arbitration and EU Law’.


Please note that the CAMMIGRES network has been superseded by the Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement.

Please see our website.

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