Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for more stringent control on immigrants coming to Britain from new EU states.
The Lib Dem leader admitted last week that the public had “lost faith” in the Government’s ability to control the number of people coming from countries such as Bulgaria and Romania.
In a speech in London, Mr Clegg suggested that member states should be given the right to reduce immigration from new EU countries if there were fears that the numbers arriving were too big for the country to absorb.
He said that reforming the “freedom of movement” laws had been made necessary because the EU had expanded and was no longer a 15-country block of nations of a similar size and with similar economies.
He also proposed the removal of a loophole which can allow people to dodge immigration rules by pretending to be self-employed.
“This is not about bolting the door,” he told the audience, “but it is about steadying the flow of people into Britain in a way that is careful and honest.
“It is in everyone’s interests – British born or not – for people living here to feel confident that, when a new member joins the EU, there will be no surprises and they have nothing to fear.”
He insisted that he remained “a believer in the benefits of well-managed immigration”, but the comments are nonetheless a change in tone from the Lib Dem leader.
They mean that all the major parties have now committed to doing something about the level of immigration from other European countries.