The government is reportedly considering further restrictions on UK immigration numbers by limiting the number of people who can come to the country from within the European Union.
Reports suggest that the coalition is looking at introducing an EU immigration cap of 75,000 a year as part of a number of proposals designed to keep the prime minister's flagship policy of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands each year on track.
News of the proposed EU cap was discovered through a leaked document seen by The Sunday Times. The paper also suggested that EU immigrants may be blocked from claiming benefits or tax credits during their first five years in the UK, while lower-skilled workers may only be allowed under the proposed changes if they have jobs that featured on an approved list of occupations with a national shortage of employees. Even highly-skilled workers from within the EU would find themselves hit by changes that could stop them from moving to the UK without a job offer in place.
A senior Liberal Democrat source condemned the suggestions put forward in the paper, stating that the changes “surely can only happen by leaving the EU”. The source added: “Even the Tories don't think they can renegotiate to that extreme. The amount of British people it would impact would far outweigh the people they're trying to stop, and British business would be crippled.”
The leaked report comes just weeks ahead of the removal of employment restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants, who will be able to openly access the UK employment market come January 2014.