Britain and Ireland have announced they will limit the number of Bulgarians and Romanians allowed to work on their territories after the two eastern European nations join the European Union in January. The move marks a shift from the open-door policy they had adopted towards newcomers until now.
It comes after London realised it had largely underestimated the number of eastern European workers coming to Britain following the bloc’s expansion.
“There will be no automatic right of anyone to come and work in this country,” said interior minister John Reid. “We will manage this process gradually and we will attempt to achieve the balance between the needs of our economy and taking the opportunities where there’s a shortage of skilled labour.”
Romania has said it regrets Britain’s decision. So has Bulgaria, which has threatened reciprocal measures.
“We would be disappointed in a decision imposing
restrictions on free movement of the Bulgarian labour force because we have excellent relations with Great Britain,” said foreign ministry spokesman Dimitar Tsanchev.
Criticis say such controls will only encourage more immigrants to work illegaly.
Britain will phase out all low-skilled migration schemes for non-EU workers from January. The new rules will not affect countries that joined the EU in 2004.