Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has refused to be talked into revealing estimates for the numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians expected to come to the UK next year.
The UK immigration regulations regarding the two European countries will change next year when the UK, along with eight other EU countries, will lift the restrictions that currently require people from Romania and Bulgaria to apply for work permits if they wish to take up employment in Britain.
Ministers have been pushed by the media to give estimates of how many migrants they are expecting to move when the restrictions are lifted. This pressure to reveal numbers is partly being driven by concern over the high numbers of Polish people that moved to the UK for work when similar barriers were lifted on Polish migrants back in 2004.
But the deputy PM said that the only figures available for the changes next year are estimates because this is in essence a new situation and cannot be compared to that of Poland. Speaking on his weekly LBC phone-in show he said: "I don't think it helps public confidence in the immigration system [to reveal estimates]. I don't think we as a government should start bandying around estimates, estimates which at the moment aren't very precise."
While the government has steered clear of providing any numbers on the matter, other organisations have attempted to derive their own figures from the available information. Migration Watch, an anti-immigration think tank, has suggested that close to 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians will come to the UK every year when the restrictions are removed.
Shadow immigration minister for Labour, Chris Bryant, criticised the government's refusal to discuss the estimates. He called on the government to "trust the public's common sense and publish the impact assessment immediately so that we can all decide for ourselves whether the plans in place are adequate".