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
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Government needs to come up with more than "leaks and half-baked proposals" to deal with issues arising from EU free movement.
Mr Miliband said: "What we need is proper measures to take action to prevent a race to the bottom between workers coming here and local workers.
"That’s why Labour has put out very specific proposals, for example clamping down on firms that don’t pay the minimum wage, stopping recruitment agencies just hiring from overseas."
A furious row has broken out at the heart of the coalition Government over the right of European Union nationals to work in the UK, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg branding proposals floated in a leaked Home Office document "illegal and undeliverable".
My advice to the Home Office is to spend less time leaking policies that are illegal and undeliverable and spend more time delivering on the policies we have agreed as a coalition - notably the reinstatement of exit checks.
I remain very frustrated that the Home Office has still not delivered something which I personally insisted should be in the Coalition Agreement, which is a reinstatement of the checks which allow us to know not only who's coming into this country but who's leaving as well.
As 2014 dawns, restrictions on the number of people from Romania and Bulgaria allowed to work in the UK will be lifted.
- Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2007
- Restrictions on the number of people from these countries allowed to work in the UK will be lifted on January 1 after seven years
- Almost 100,000 have already taken the chance to work in the UK (ONS)
- When Poland joined the EU in 2004 there were no restrictions in place and more than 400,000 made the move (Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and Communities and Local Government, Accession Monitoring Report)
- UK is 11th on list of where Romanians tend to move (IOM 2011)
- Combined population of Bulgaria and Romania is 29 million compared to 39 million in Poland
- 6.5 million Romanians aged between 20 and 39 and 0.35 million Bulgarians - the group which tends to make the shift but 46% of have already gone