Blair promises tighter controls on immigrants

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Indy Politics

Tighter controls on immigrants from Eastern European countries about to join the European Union were promised by Tony Blair yesterday.

The Government, as revealed by The Independent this week, is considering tougher rules on benefit payments and the reintroduction of border controls if larger than expected numbers of immigrants head for Britain after the 10 mainly Eastern European countries become EU members in May.

Britain is the only major European economy to offer unlimited access for workers from countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. Ministers insist that only about 13,000 economic migrants will travel to Britain each year, but privately fear that the country could become a magnet for "benefit tourists".

Tony Blair told MPs: "It is important we recognise there is a potential risk from these accession countries of people coming in. It's precisely for that reason we are looking at the concessions we gave, and, if it is right that closing off those concessions is going to mean we deal with this problem, then we will do so."