UK drafts plans to limit Bulgaria and Romania migrants
The UK government is drafting a work permit scheme aimed at limiting the number of Bulgarian and Romanian jobseekers coming to Britain after the two countries join the EU, with both interior and finance ministries in favour of a regime similar to one already in place for other third country nationals.
According to UK daily The Guardian, the labour restrictions likely to be introduced by London would require new migrants to prove they can fill specific skills shortages, with relatively few eligible applicants getting permission to work.
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"We have a strong record on accepting migrants from Europe, but sometimes politics has to override the economics and that is what is going to happen in this case," one member of the cabinet closely involved in the talks told the newspaper.
The existing UK work permit system is based on a points system, with migrants from non-EU countries rated primarily for education and professional qualifications.
EU citizens have a right to work in any member state, but current members are allowed to place restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania for up to seven years on the same model as in the 2004 round of enlargement.
Sofia and Bucharest have expressed disappointment over plans by some countries to fence off labour markets, while several EU member states have not yet made clear what line they will take.
Britain was one of three "old" member states - along with Ireland and Sweden - that fully opened up to citizens from eight countries in central and eastern Europe right after they joined the bloc in 2004.
The move has seen some 600,000 new jobseekers come to the UK so far - well in excess of government estimates - causing a backlash in some tabloid press and a lively debate on the Bulgaria and Romania question.
London predicts between 60,000 and 140,000 people will come from the two states to the UK in the first year after accession, which could take place in January 2007.