The UK Prime Minister David Cameron faces pressure from activists in his Conservative Party to extend the immigration controls on citizens of Romania and Bulgaria living and working in the UK-. Controls barring most Romanians and Bulgarians from working in the UK are due to expire at midnight on 31st December 2013.
90 activists, who include chairmen of constituency parties, have written to Mr Cameron urging him to extend the ban using a proviso in EU law which allows a member state to extend a ban on citizens of new member states from coming to work if the Country 'is undergoing or foresees serious labour market disturbances'.
The UK and most other countries in Western Europe introduced the controls when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. The free movement of labour within the EU is a central pillar of the single market in Europe but countries were allowed to place temporary restrictions on new member states to prevent mass immigration. Under EU law these 'transitional controls' can last for up to seven years. This will end at midnight on 31 December 2013.
Controls expire midnight on 31st December 2013The UK controls are due to expire at midnight on December 31st 2013 and anti-immigration figures in the UK, both in politics and the media, are warning of a 'flood' of immigration from the two countries which, they say, will be bad for community cohesion and which will take jobs from the young and the unemployed in the UK.
A group of about 90 Conservative MPs are said to have pressed the government to extend the controls. Conservative backbench MP Nigel Mills has proposed a referendum to the government's Immigration Bill that would extend the controls until 2018, after a possible referendum on EU membership is held.
Hitherto, the UK government has said that there is nothing that can be done to extend the controls. Immigration minister Mark Harper told journalists on 20th November 2013 that extending the controls was 'not legally possible'. He said that any attempt to do so would be overturned by the courts.
'We've extended the controls to their legal maximum' - HarperMr Harper said '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. We've extended the controls to their legal maximum'.
But Conservative Grassroots has asked Mr Cameron to act. A director of Conservative Grassroots, James Joshua, told journalists, 'Some estimates have suggested that more than 300,000 Romanians and Bulgarians will travel to the UK. This will put huge pressure on public services at a time when the country is struggling under a mountain of debt with on-going acute challenges within the economy'.
Romanians and Bulgarians already come under more favourable immigration rules that are unavailable to non-EEA workers. They can work under the old work permit scheme, as seasonal agricultural workers, as self-employed workers or under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme. These immigration categories tend to be easier to come under than the immigration categories available to non-EEA workers.
121,000 Romanians and Bulgarians already in the UKThe UK's Office for National Statistics says that there were over 121,000 Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK in November 2013.
A government spokesman said that UK immigration expects 'business as usual' on January 1st 2014.
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