A MINISTER’S claim today that the Government is legally powerless to block east European migrants working in Britain from the New Year has been condemned by Ukip boss Nigel Farage as “utterly pathetic”.
He said Immigration Minister Mark Harper should be “embarrassed at the impotence of his own role in government” after he conceded there was almost nothing Britain could do to stop the lifting of labour market controls on Bulgarians and Romanians from January 1.
Mr Harper said the only way controls could be extended would be to ask Bulgaria and Romania themselves if the EU’s Treat of Rome could be amended.
The minister said a unilateral move by the UK “simply isn’t legally possible”.
Earlier this week, Tory MP Nigel Mills proposed changes to the Government’s Immigration Bill to extend restrictions to Romania and Bulgaria from January 1 next year to the end of December 2018.
The Daily Express is set to hand David Cameron a petition of more than 100,000 signaturescalling for the transitional controls to stay in force.
We’ve extended the controls to their legal maximum
Immigration Minister Mark Harper
However, Mr Harper said today: “It simply isn’t legally possible. 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.
“The only way you could legally extend them is if you amended the accession treaties, which you would have to do by unanimity including getting the agreement of Romania and Bulgaria and I don’t think that is at all possible.”
Mr Harper added: “We wouldn’t even need to go to the European courts, the domestic courts would rule it wasn’t compliant with our treaty obligations – because it isn’t.
“We’ve extended the controls to their legal maximum.
“We’re bound by the treaties signed by the last Government that limit the controls to the end of this year.”
The minister insisted there was a “big difference” between the changes coming into force on January 1 and the scenario in 2004, when Britain’s labour market became immediately available to 10 countries joining the EU, including Poland.
Former Labour home secretary Jack Straw recently admitted that applying no restrictions on eastern European migrants in 2004 was a “spectacular mistake”.
The-then Labour government had relied on research suggesting 13,000 migrants a year would arrive, when the influx was much larger than expected and contributed to net migration rising above 200,000 a year.
See on www.express.co.uk