Prime Minister David Cameron said a “reasonable level” of Romanians and Bulgarians have arrived in the U.K. since work restrictions were lifted this month as he seeks to head off a rebellion from his own lawmakers.
Two lawmaker groupings among Cameron’s Conservatives have proposed amendments to the Immigration Bill, due to be debated Jan. 30. Cameron said today he shares the frustration of those threatening to vote in favor of re-imposing a ban on workers from the two European Union member states and agreed that immigration overall remained “too high”.
Yet, he added it’s impossible to extend the transitional controls on the two nations, which expired on Jan. 1, until 2018, urging his lawmakers not to risk derailing other “very sensible” curbs in the bill.
“I completely understand and in many ways share the frustrations of colleagues who would like us to go further,” Cameron told BBC Radio’s “Today” program today. “We have done the extent of what we can do within the rules that were agreed by the last government.”
Cameron’s spokesman Jean-Christophe Gray, asked by reporters in London if there are any official statistics to back up the premier’s comment that migration from the two nations has been “reasonable,” replied “not to my knowledge.”
Conservative rank-and-file lawmakers have signed an amendment calling on the government to reinstate restrictions on migrants from Bulgaria and Romania working in Britain until the end of 2018.
Tory lawmaker Nigel Mills, who is sponsoring the amendment, which has the support of around 70 of his colleagues, told the BBC’s “Sunday Politics” program yesterday while he wasn’t trying to undermine the bill, “real concerns” about migration should be taken into account.
The move by the Tory lawmakers reflects a fear that the party will lose ground the U.K. Independence Party in European elections in May. A YouGov Plc poll commissioned by the Sun newspaper Jan. 16 predicted Labour will receive 32 percent of the vote, UKIP will get 26 percent and the Conservatives would trail third with just 23 percent. UKIP campaigns for Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc.
Tory lawmaker Dominic Raab has offered another amendment to the bill which would mean foreign criminals can only avoid deportation if they risk being killed or tortured on return to their home nation. Raab said in an interview he has the support of 104 lawmakers for his amendment, most of them Tories.