London takes harder line on Bulgarian and Romanian workers
Britain has sent another signal suggesting a policy shift on labour market access to workers from the new EU member states, as a newspaper poll shows 77 percent of people approve of putting work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians.
UK trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling said on Sunday (20 August) that London would allow "properly managed" migration from the two countries - likely to join the EU next year - rather than pursue an "open door" policy as it did towards workers from the ten member states that entered the bloc in 2004, the British media report.
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"What we need to do is balance the skills that we require - and yes, our economy does require skills in various areas - and at the same time having a system that is properly managed so we can take care of all the other things we need to consider, like the healthcare system, the education system and so on," Mr Darling told BBC News 24.
His comments were made as a poll by the Sunday Times found that 77 percent of respondents wanted the UK government to set a strict limit on the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year.
A similar call has been made by several key players from both pf the main political parties in Britain.
The UK home secretary John Reid recently argued that something should be done to prevent the likely strain on the country's housing and public services after a possible influx of new workers.
The cabinet is predicting between 60,000 and 140,000 Romanians and Bulgarians will arrive in Britain in the first year after the next EU expansions.
London previously strongly underestimated the number of economic migrants, expecting up to 13,000 workers a year to move to the UK, while 600,000 have come since 2004.
The Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, John Denham, suggested last week that there should be some "breathing space" before workers from the new EU entrants are allowed to work in Britain, the Independent reported.
Conservative Party immigration spokesman Damian Green argued that the government should learn from the "unprecedented numbers" who arrived in the UK after the last EU enlargement and control migration from Bulgaria and Romania.
Only Britain, Ireland and Sweden opened their labour markets to the newcomers right after they joined the EU in 2004.
Finland, Spain, Portugal and Greece lifted their barriers this year, while most other countries are relaxing them.
On the other hand, Austria and Germany have indicated they will keep the restrictions on the free movement of labour - one of the EU's fundamental pillars - for a maximum period of seven year, until 2011.
Concerning Romania and Bulgaria, most EU member states have yet to clarify their position on whether to impose temporary labour barriers against their workers or not.