LONDON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Britain plans to ban Romanians and Bulgarians from coming there to work when their countries join the European Union next year.
Home Secretary John Reid announced Tuesday that citizens of those countries caught working illegally would face fines of 1,000 pounds ($1,900) on the spot and even larger penalties if they are convicted at trial, The Times of London reported. Businesses would be fined up to 5,000 pounds ($9,500).
When eight Eastern countries joined the union in 2004, Britain was one of three countries to allow free immigration. But the influx of around half a million people, mostly from Poland, was far larger than the 13,000 a year that authorities expected.
Some critics predicted that the attempt to keep Bulgarians and Romanians out is doomed to fail.
"These restrictions will be unworkable, undesirable and unnecessary, and of lasting damage to the reputation of the U.K. as champion of the enlargement," said Keith Vaz, former Labor Europe Minister. "There is no evidence that welcoming migrants from Eastern Europe in 2004 has had anything otherwise than beneficial effects for the United Kingdom."