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Migrant restrictions call by Clegg

Some future new members of the EU should be made to wait for more than the current limit of seven years before their citizens gain the right to settle and work in the UK, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.

And countries like Britain need to be given the right to "put on the brakes" if excessive numbers of migrants arrive after the lifting of so-called "transition controls".

Mr Clegg also said that a loophole allowing early entry for entrepreneurs should be scrapped, to stop immigrants posing as self-employed businessmen to get into the country only to take up low-paid work in restaurants or farms.

The Liberal Democrat leader will set out his proposals in a speech tomorrow in which he will also herald a clampdown on sham marriages for visas and detail plans for tougher inspections to catch out employers paying migrants less than the minimum wage.

Mr Clegg will insist that the freedom for workers to move between EU states is "a good thing" and will warn of an "immense" blow to British prosperity if it was ditched.

But he will say that the rules must be changed for new entrants joining the EU, to avoid a repeat of the massive wave of immigration to the UK following the 2004 accession of eastern European states including Poland, as well as the arrival of 60,000 Romanians and Bulgarians before restrictions on working in Britain were lifted at the start of this year.

"When the EU enlarges in the future, we'll need to be stricter and clearer on the transition controls we apply to new member states - the time between a country joining the EU and its people being able to move here," he will say.

"We... need to be prepared to go beyond the seven-year maximum for transition controls, depending on the size and economy of the country joining the EU and the extent to which we expect its nationals to look for work here.

"I also believe we'll need to agree a period of time - once the controls have been lifted - in which existing member states including Britain retain the right to put on the brakes if people begin arriving in numbers too big for our society to absorb successfully."

Mr Clegg will say that many of the Romanians and Bulgarians who arrived in Britain before the removal of transition controls were taking low-paid jobs but registering as self-employed, which meant employers did not have to provide sick pay or leave or pay national insurance contributions.

"British workers in industries like food and agriculture felt they couldn't compete. And yet again the reassurances that had been provided to the British people were shown to be false," Mr Clegg will say.

"Whenever the EU enlarges in the future, I want the Liberal Democrats to argue for the removal of the special exemption for the self-employed - and if we're in Government again, we should insist on it. This loophole can't be forced on Britain and we mustn't accept it."

Mr Clegg will say: "This is not about bolting the door, 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."

The Deputy Prime Minister will describe freedom of movement as "a good thing... a cornerstone of European integration, a right currently enjoyed by around 1.5 million British citizens who live on the other side of the Channel".

"It is necessary in order to be part of the world's biggest single market where goods and people can flow between nations," he will say. "Those who wish to undo it should be careful what they wish for: the blow to UK prosperity would be immense."

But he will say that the principle must be reformed to reflect the changing realities of an EU which has grown from 15 to 28 states with wide differences in wealth.

"It is only right - and I say this as a pro-European - that we reform freedom of movement to reflect these realities," Mr Clegg will say .

"It is a right to work. It was never intended as an automatic right to claim benefits, but over time the distinction has been blurred."

Albania, Iceland, Montenegro, Serbia, t he former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey have been recognised as candidates and Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo as potential candidates for future EU entry, though European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said he does not anticipate any new members during his five-year term of office.


From Belfast Telegraph