Nick Clegg is to call for tighter controls on migrants coming to the UK from new EU states, saying people have “lost faith” in the government’s ability to manage immigration.
He will say new EU members must wait longer than the current seven-year limit before their citizens have the right to settle and work in the UK.
The deputy PM is also set to unveil a clampdown on sham marriages for visas.
Employers using migrants as cheap labour will also be targeted.
In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Clegg will insist that freedom of movement among EU states is “a good thing”, although it was “never intended as an automatic right to claim benefits”.
However, leaving the EU would strike an “immense” blow to UK prosperity.
‘Put on the brakes’
He will say the rules must be changed for new entrants joining the EU, to avoid a repeat of the wave of immigration to the UK following the 2004 accession of eastern European states, including Poland.
This was in addition to the arrival of 60,000 Romanians and Bulgarians before restrictions on working in Britain were lifted at the start of the year.
“Is it any wonder – when people have been repeatedly told one thing only to then see another – that so many have lost faith in government’s ability to manage the flow of migrants from new EU states?” Mr Clegg will say.
Instead, when the EU enlarges in the future, stricter and clearer transition controls will need to apply to new member states.
“We need to be prepared to go beyond the seven-year maximum for transition controls, depending on the size and economy of the country joining the EU and the extent to which we expect its nationals to look for work here,” he will say.
David Cameron said last week the UK would halve the time EU migrants without realistic job prospects can claim benefits to three months.
But Labour said the PM’s rhetoric masked a record of “failure” on immigration and “firm action” was needed.
In his speech, Mr Clegg will stress that Britain should retain the right “to put on the brakes” if more people arrive than society can absorb.
‘Nothing to fear’
He will say that many of the Romanians and Bulgarians who arrived in Britain before the removal of transition controls were taking low-paid jobs but registering as self-employed, which meant employers did not have to provide sick pay, leave or pay national insurance contributions.
“British workers in industries like food and agriculture felt they couldn’t compete,” he will say. “And yet again the reassurances that had been provided to the British people were shown to be false.
“Whenever the EU enlarges in the future, I want the Liberal Democrats to argue for the removal of the special exemption for the self employed – and if we’re in government again, we should insist on it. This loophole can’t be forced on Britain and we mustn’t accept it.”
He will add: “This is not about bolting the door, but it is about steadying the flow of people into Britain in a way that is careful and honest. It is in everyone’s interests – British born or not – for people living here to feel confident that, when a new member joins the EU, there will be no surprises and they have nothing to fear.”
Mr Clegg will also describe how Britain’s registrars are being enlisted to help clamp down on the 2,000 sham marriages reported each year, with an expectation they should tell the Home Office of any suspicion they have that a couple is bogus or an individual in the UK illegally.
He will announce a £1m team of inspectors tasked with identifying businesses, such as care homes, recruitment agencies and top-class hotels, who use migrants as cheap labour, paying below the minimum wage.