A Conservative Cabinet minister ratcheted up the party’s language on immigration today by claiming that some towns are being “swamped” by newcomers and their residents felt “under siege”.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, echoed controversial comments by Margaret Thatcher in the late 1970s as he called for tougher curbs on freedom of movement within the European Union.
David Cameron has demanded radical change on the issue, but appears already to have run into opposition from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But Mr Fallon said: “The Germans haven’t seen our proposal yet, and we haven’t seen our proposal yet. That is still being worked on at the moment to see what we can do to prevent whole towns and communities being swamped by huge numbers of migrant workers.
“In some areas, particularly on the east coast, yes, towns do feel under siege from large numbers of migrant workers and people claiming benefits. It is quite right that we look at that.”
He told Sky News that the 50-year-old treaty establishing the EU “did not envisage these vast movements of people, and we are perfectly entitled to say this needs to be looked at again”.
Margaret Thatcher was accused in 1978 of playing on racial prejudice when she said people feared being “swamped” by immigrants from India and Pakistan, comments that propelled immigration up the agenda of the following year’s general election.
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