David Cameron has announced a crackdown on so-called “benefit tourism”, saying EU migrants will not be able to claim taxpayer-funded support indefinitely.
Eligibility rules for out-of-work benefits will be tightened and access to housing benefit will be curbed.
The prime minister said people were “deeply concerned” about levels of migration from Bulgaria and Romania.
He also questioned the principle of free movement inside the EU, saying this right could not be “unqualified”.
He suggested a future Conservative government after 2015 may press for major changes to limit the number of migrants to the UK from current and future EU members.
Transitional controls limiting Bulgarian and Romanian workers’ access to the UK labour market – in place since the two countries joined the EU in 2007 – will expire at the end of the year.
There have been warnings of an “influx” of low-skilled workers from the two countries and calls from across the political spectrum for a review of migrants’ access to the health service and welfare system.