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'Defy EU and curb immigration' call

The Government should defy Europe and continue to restrict immigration from Romania and Bulgaria next year to ease the burden on the UK's public services, according to voters.

A poll for the Daily Mail found that an overwhelming number of Britons are concerned about the impact when border controls with the two eastern European countries are relaxed on January 1.

Under European Union laws Romanians and Bulgarians will have unrestricted access to live and work in the UK, fuelling fears of a flood of migration.

According to the Mail, which polled more than 1,000 people, 82% of voters believe the Government should continue to impose restrictions on immigration. That would be illegal under EU law and a breach could bring about heavy fines, but 64% think the Government should ignore the threat of legal sanctions and defy Brussels.

Some 80% of people believe Westminster should have the final say on who should be allowed to enter Britain, with just 5% believing the EU should make the decision.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised an in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership in 2017. But yesterday a senior business adviser to Ed Miliband said that the referendum should happen before the 2015 general election.

Lord (Parry) Mitchell - appointed the Labour leader's business ambassador and enterprise adviser in July - said it would be "very difficult" for the party to resist demands for a public vote. The peer said that if it was up to him it would be held sooner rather than later.

The Daily Mail poll found that 85% of people felt immigration was putting too much pressure on public services, such as schools, hospitals and housing.

A further 76% were concerned that migration had affected the chances of young Britons getting jobs.

Despite the Prime Minister's promise, just 11% of those polled trusted the Tories on immigration - less than 17% who trusted Labour and 22% who backed Ukip.

Earlier this week the immigration minister said that shutting the borders to Romanians and Bulgarians "simply isn't legally possible".

Mark Harper said recent proposals by Tory backbenchers to extend the controls on new arrivals from the two countries for a further five years would be batted down by UK courts as illegal.

The Forest of Dean MP added that the Home Office was "not complacent" and with other departments was bringing in a number of measures to limit migrant access to social housing and benefits and to clamp down on illegal working.

Conservative MP Nigel Mills had proposed changes to the Government's Immigration Bill to extend restrictions to Romania and Bulgaria from January 1 to the end of December 2018.

Asked if such a move was possible, Mr Harper said: "It simply isn't legally possible. The accession treaties only give us the ability - and the other eight counties with transitional controls - to extend them to the end of the year.

"The only way you could legally extend them is if you amended the accession treaties, which you would have to do by unanimity including getting the agreement of Romania and Bulgaria and I don't think that is at all possible."

Lord Mitchell backed Mr Miliband's warning that Mr Cameron's promise of a 2017 in/out referendum on a renegotiated relationship with Brussels was "totally damaging" to the UK's chances of securing foreign investment.

But unlike the party leadership, which has so far declined to commit to a vote, over which there are splits in opinion within the shadow cabinet, he said the answer was to settle the question more quickly.

"I would say if a decision is being taken for a referendum it should have been taken as quickly as possible," he told The House magazine. "But to stick it out still for another four years I think is highly damaging and wrong.

"Everybody now seems to be committed to a referendum, and if there is going to be a referendum then I think it should be as soon as possible. Before the election, frankly.

"I think it's very difficult to get up and say 'we're not going to have a referendum'. Ed's (Miliband) said they think 2017 is too far away, and indeed it is. Would they make it sooner? I don't know. If it was my decision I would have it sooner."

Pro-EU Mr Miliband has said Labour will "set out our position at the election".

Tory Eurosceptic Adam Afriyie is expected to press ahead today with a demand for a referendum next year on the UK's membership of the EU.

Mr Afriyie's call will come as the European Union (Referendum) Bill - which legislates for an in/out referendum in 2017 - returns to the House of Commons.


From Belfast Telegraph