Both David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May indicated their support for the plan, which has been added to a wide-ranging Whitehall review of Britain’s relationship with Europe.
“I believe in free movement, but two weeks ago, I visited two factories in a week, and I asked the question: how many people do you employ from other EU countries? In one it was 60 per cent, in the other it was 50 per cent,” Cameron told the BBC. “Heavens above, we have got so many unemployed people in our country that we want to train and educate and give apprenticeships to and get back into work...we’ve already capped immigration from outside the EU on economic grounds.”
However free movement of people is a central tenet of the EU and lawyers have serious doubts over the government’s ability to restrict it. The 2010 coalition agreement contains a pledge to reduce net immigration to Britain from “hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands” but official figures show that in 2011 net immigration hit 216,000.