Britain is planning a 'secret cap' on immigrants from the EU, according to a leaked Government report.
The leaked report reveals the Home Office is considering a raft of proposals to limit the number of migrants from poorer EU countries, in response to fears that the UK faces an influx of migrants from Bulgaria and Romania when immigration restrictions end on 1 January 2014.
The proposals include capping the number of migrants from EU countries, in order to limit net annual migration from EU countries to 75,000 people - 31,000 fewer than the current net migration of 106,000 a year.
Home Secretary Theresa May commissioned the open borders review to scrutinise the effect on Britain of the EU's imposed policy of allowing the free movement of people between countries. The damning report claims the free movement of migrant workers between EU countries has encouraged trafficking and organised crime, led to a rise in rough sleepers and beggars, and created social tensions as a result of the increased strain on public services.
In addition to the cap, The Sunday Times reports that the proposals also include:
- Limiting labour movement from poorer countries joining the EU to the UK until their GDP is 75% of Britain's.
- Blocking EU immigrants from claiming benefits or tax credits for their first five years in the UK.
- Restricting the migration of professionals and highly skilled migrants to the UK from countries such as Germany, Holland and Austria to only those with a UK job offer.
- Only allowing lower-skilled workers to settle in the UK if they have jobs on an approved list of occupations for which there was a national shortage.
- Explicitly reserving jobs for UK citizens.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said that tougher controls on freedom of movement within the EU will be needed in the future. He suggested a model based on a country's GDP could be a workable means of deciding which countries to restrict migrant movement from.
"When other countries join the European Union we should be insisting on longer transitions and perhaps even saying until you reach a proper share of an average European Union GDP you can't have freedom of movement.
"The reason for that is if you look at migration between Britain and Germany or France and Germany, countries of pretty even GDP, the movements are pretty much balanced.
"It's only when you have a real imbalance when you have a poor country and a much wealthier country that you get these vast movements."
IBTimes UK notes that Cameron's 75% GDP threshold, if imposed across the EU, would bar UK nationals from working in Germany, since the UK has only 70% of Germany's GDP.
Bulgaria and Romania will become the latest countries to join the free EU labour market, when restrictions on their working entitlements and rights to claim benefits and NHS care are lifted on 1 January 2014.
Lifting the restrictions has prompted fears of a mass influx of low-skilled Bulgarian and Romanians to the UK to work or claim benefits. In response Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith announced that under a new scheme immigrants to the UK will be tested on their English skills before being able to claim income-related benefits.