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The Chancellor George Osborne has insisted the government will continue to fight for Britain and British interests in Europe.
His comments come after reports from Germany that Chancellor Angela Merkel has threatened to withdraw her support for keeping Britain in the EU if David Cameron continued in his drive to curb immigration from other EU countries, in defiance of the EU policy on the free movement of people.
With just two weeks until Bulgarian and Romanian members of the EU are free to travel to the UK, a sharp divide over managing that emerged. In addition to saying a cap would be illegal, Nick Clegg said any attempt by the Conservatives to "pull up the draw-bridge" would be bad for British business.
ITV News Political Editor Tom Bradby reports:
I think it is important to understand the base line when you look at a country like Norway, it is of course outside the European Union and it is free to do whatever it likes.
But the EU is an enormous trading partner sitting right on its border, it can't possibly not trade with it and in order to trade freely it has to accept freedom of movement, which is one of the founding principles of the EU.
So that is the bottom line reality. If you're talking about reform, stopping people coming here and claiming benefits for example, or using the NHS, there is a reasonable chance that might be negotiated or more measures might be negotiated.
But if you're talking about stopping people coming here and working I think that is much more difficult.
Yes, Mr Cameron is talking about new countries like Turkey maybe joining the EU and delaying that until they are richer, but I wouldn't bet on it and I wouldn't bet on getting our European partners to agree to that.
Home Secretary Theresa May has refused to be drawn on Nick Clegg's criticism of her department, telling the Home Affairs Select Committee, "I'm going to address the issue rather than an individual."
Ms May told the committee today: "He has, as I understand it, made a statement on the basis of if we were going to do this now, this is what the situation would be.
"What I'm saying is, I'm not proposing to do it now. We're talking about potential reforms of accession treaties for the future."
Toader Ciuta has two daughters both working in the UK. He cares for one of their daughters, four-year-old Teodora Ana Maria, who he has raised since she was four-months-old.
“For us the important thing is that our children have a future and we will take care of their kids, our grandchildren.
“We need to keep them safe and raise them because in Romania there are not any other options to earn the money that is needed to raise a family. It is a sacrifice for us all but we understand it is necessary.
“One day everything will be normal. Those who went away will have earned a good living and will come back to Romania, their children and their families. They can then raise their own children.
“Here in Romania there are big and serious problems, people do not have work, do not have a decent salary, there are very few people working here with good wages, and our children do not have the same opportunity that we, the old, had.
"They are obliged to leave and earn their bread far away from here, to provide for their families. And we, the old, are obliged to take care of the little ones and we have a lot of affection for them.”
More than half of Brits feel immigrants from Eastern Europe have adversely impacted levels of unemployment in the UK.
A ComRes survey carried out for ITV News found:
- 51% felt they had negatively impacted unemployment levels
- Just 11% said Eastern European immigrants had a positive impact
- 25% thought they had a neutral or no impact
- 13% did not know
The welfare state is the area those questioned believe is most likely to have been negatively impacted (57%).
The UK economy (22%) and the skill level of the labour force (22%) are deemed to be the areas most positively affected by Eastern European immigration.
Almost half of the British public believe Eastern European immigrants receive more in welfare and public services than they contribute in taxes, according to the latest ITV News Index.
Of the 2,058 adults surveyed by ComRes:
- 46% thought they receive more in welfare than they contribute in taxes
- 14% believed Eastern European immigrants contribute more than they receive
- 16% said they felt the amounts were about the same
- 23% did not know
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