UK & World News

  • 22 December 2013, 14:26

Migrants: Cameron Warned UK Faces Isolation

The Bulgarian President has warned David Cameron that he risks being judged by history as a Prime Minister who has isolated the UK and damaged its reputation.

Rosen Plevneliev said his countrymen were watching Britain's immigration debate unfold and raising questions about the "democratic, tolerant and humane British society".

It comes as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the Lib Dems will not accept any further curbs to migrants and a Tory backbencher warns that the rhetoric on immigration could stop non-white people voting Conservative.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has also insisted a cap on EU migrants is "not going to happen".

Transitional controls on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants will be lifted in under two weeks.

Some think-tanks have warned that 50,000 people could arrive from the two countries each year.

Mr Cameron has reacted to concerns about the move with a string of interventions including to limit access to benefits for those travelling to the UK.

And at the European Council meeting in Brussels this week he threatened to veto the EU accession of new countries such as Albania and Serbia without strict new immigration rules.

One idea put forward by the PM is to set a GDP limit below which countries will not be given free movement of labour if they join the EU.

Mr Plevneliev said he feared for the safety of Bulgarians in Britain. He said "iron curtains" should not remain in the 20th century, arguing that this was a time to bring down walls, not to build them.

"Mr Cameron should never forget that a politician is remembered in history not with the everyday business," he said.

Mr Clegg makes his comments in the Sunday Times. He has supported the crackdown on benefits for immigrants saying the right to move and work is not the same as the right to claim.

"But this is where we draw the line," he says, rejecting talk of "arbitrary" caps on EU nationals. That was a policy idea being considered by the Home Office that was leaked to the media in recent weeks.

Mr Clegg's party is traditionally liberal on immigration and did support an amnesty for illegal immigrants before the last election. But public fears have led the Lib Dems to drop the pledge, admitting that public trust in the immigration system is broken and it would be asking too much.

Mark Field, a Conservative backbencher, has also entered the debate saying the tough talk on immigration could turn off non-white voters.

He has warned Mr Cameron not to repeat the mistakes made by Mitt Romney, the US Republican candidate, in 2012. He said failure to reach out to the Hispanic community had meant it had failed to understand his stance on immigration.

Labour's David Hanson, shadow immigration minister, said the Government was "hopelessly split" on the issue.

"Rather than deal with genuine concerns in a calm and measured way the Prime Minister has sought headlines and panicked on issues he could have dealt with much earlier," he said.

"Once again the rhetoric fails to match the reality with this government on immigration."

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.