During Thursday night's televised leadership debate, Nick Clegg repeatedly asked David Cameron to answer the following question on immigration:
- "Would your cap on the number of immigrants entering the UK have any impact on people coming here from the EU? Yes or no?"
David Cameron successfully ducked the question once or twice, but eventually responded, albeit rather hastily:
- "Yes, yes, it would be affected by transitional controls..."
In so answering, Mr. Cameron seemed to suggest that he could limit the number of EU citizens coming to the UK through "transitional controls" applied to the so-called A8 countries (i.e., Czech Republic; Estonia; Hungary; Latvia; Lithuania; Poland; Slovakia; and Slovenia).
Pursuant to EU law on free movement of workers, however, these transitional arrangements will automatically expire on the seventh anniversary of the countries' accession to the EU.
So Mr. Cameron was being disingenuous when he said he could limit how many EU citizens enter the UK. Unless he's planning to withdraw from the EU, which seems very unlikely...
Gillian Duffy also raised the issue of Polish/EU workers coming to the UK during her now infamous exchange with Gordon Brown last week.
She referred to them as "immigrants". Legally, however, EU citizens are not immigrants at all - since they already have the right to freely move and work anywhere in Europe - just like us.
In conclusion then, Mr. Cameron can only really cap the number of immigrants coming from outside the EU. And even then his room for manoeuvre is limited because of bilateral immigration agreements with other nations in the Commonwealth.