May in EU free movement meeting

The Home Secretary is to challenge her European counterparts to change the way free movement rules work across the region at a meeting in Brussels.

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Theresa May discussed a cap on numbers if European immigration reaches certain thresholds

The Home Secretary is to challenge her European counterparts to change the way free movement rules work across the region at a meeting in Brussels.

Theresa May will tell justice and home affairs ministers of fellow European Union (EU) member states the UK is frustrated by the European Commission's failure to tackle free movement abuse.

Ahead of the meeting, Mrs May discussed measures to tackle this abuse such as applying a cap on numbers if European immigration reaches certain thresholds.

Her comments come after David Cameron unveiled measures to deter immigrants from within the EU but also suggested in the future, labour movement from new member states should be limited until they hit a certain level of GDP per head.

The PM has unveiled reforms just weeks before access restrictions to the UK labour market are lifted for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.

His proposals were met with warnings that Britain could be seen as the "nasty" country of the EU and accusations of "hysteria".

Ahead of the meeting, Mrs May said: " Today I am attending a meeting of the Council of Ministers. At that meeting I will make clear that I believe we need to change the way free movement rules work.

"First, for future accession treaties, we must be able to slow full access to each other's labour markets until we can be sure it will not lead to mass migration.

"This could, for example, be achieved by requiring new member states to reach a certain level of income or economic output per head before full free movement is allowed.

"Second, looking ahead, we must seize the opportunity presented by the Prime Minister's plan to reform the EU and address the problems caused by free movement.

"For example, why shouldn't national governments be allowed to impose a cap on numbers if European immigration reaches certain thresholds?

"Ahead of the lifting of transitional controls on Romanians and Bulgarians, the Government is doing everything it can to make sure our rules are as tough as they can be and we are addressing the pull factors that encourage people to come to Britain. But in the future, it is right that the national governments of the EU reform the way free movement rules work."

The Prime Minister has been accused of ''panicking'' over a looming rebellion by Tory backbenchers who want to extend transitional controls on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants for a further five years.

An amendment to the Immigration Bill tabled last month by Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills, requiring the controls to remain in force until the end of 2018, has been signed by 45 other Conservative MPs.

However, immigration minister Mark Harper last week said such a move ''simply isn't legally possible''.