A new Coalition split has opened after Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, suggested that the Liberal Democrats had thwarted Tory plans to close Britain’s borders to Romanians and Bulgarians.
The Conservative Cabinet minister furthered angered his Coalition partners by announcing plans to draft new laws to curtail the impact of European human rights legislation on Britain.
Mr Grayling made clear his sympathy with more than 70 MPs who have called for the retention for another five years of transitional controls on Romanians and Bulgarians, which will be lifted on Wednesday.
“The reality is that we are not a majority party in the House of Commons, so the Conservative Party would not be able to get through the Commons some of the things we might like to do in changing our relation with the European Union,” he told BBC4’s Today programme.
A senior Liberal Democrat source retorted: “The extension of transitional controls is not something the Conservatives have even discussed with the Lib Dems. There is a long agreed Government position, which is for Britain - like many other countries in the European Union - to lift transitional controls on 1 January.”
Mr Grayling also disclosed that alternatives for overhauling human rights laws, including the possibility of leaving the European Convention on Human Rights, would be published shortly.
He said: “We have been looking at a number of options, of which leaving the Convention is one. It’s not the only option we are considering and we will bring forward plans in the next few weeks which will set out very clearly what we will do and how we will do it.
“Later in the year we will publish a draft Bill which will set out precisely how that legal change will take place.”
The Lib Dems stressed that no such move would be take place while they sat in the Cabinet and the proposal would have to be limited to the Tory election manifesto.