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The Government doesn't want to be seen as a soft touch on immigration

Rules on claiming the Jobseekers’ Allowance are being significantly tightened for Europeans

It will be a nervous New Year for David Cameron, Theresa May and other senior ministers.

Outwardly the Government is confident that there will be a trickle, and not a flood, of Romanians and Bulgarians heading for Britain when transitional controls on workers from the two countries are lifted on January 1.

But they are privately haunted by the mental image of hordes of Romanian and Bulgarian invaders being met in three weeks’ time by tabloid reporters stationed at Heathrow, Dover and Victoria coach station.

As a result Downing Street has approved moves to send out a series of unambiguous messages to the two countries that Britain will only welcome its most industrious citizens.

The Government has warned that foreign rough sleepers and beggars will be rounded up, deported and banned from returning for 12 months.

Rules on claiming the Jobseekers’ Allowance are being significantly tightened, with Europeans only allowed to receive it if they have been in Britain for three months – and then only for six months unless they can prove they are genuinely looking for a job.

They will be barred from receiving housing benefit and councils have been urged to put them at the bottom of waiting list for housing.

Clearly the fine detail of the measures, some of will not actually be in place by January 1, will not be pored over in Bucharest and Sofia.

But their combined effect, the Government hopes, is to combat any suggestion that the UK is a “soft touch” and prove to restive British voters that it is doing all it possibly can to cope with shifting patterns of immigration.