Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Croatia joining the EU 'will benefit UK economy' - minister

The accession of Croatia to the European Union will benefit the British economy and is in the UK's strategic interest, Foreign Office Minister David Lidington has said.

Opening the second reading debate on the European Union (Croatian Accession and Irish Protocol) Bill on 6 November 2012, Mr Lidington told MPs: "Amid the current financial crisis, the project of EU enlargement remains as relevant now as it ever has been to our economic and well as our political interests."

The bill approves the Republic of Croatia joining the European Union in July 2013, in line with a treaty signed at Brussels on 9 December 2011.

Mr Lidington explained the government's position: "We have a national interest in the long-term political stability of the western Balkans, but also there are economic benefits to expanding the single market.

"Our trade with the eastern and central European countries continues to grow; UK exports to the emerging Europe countries have trebled over the last 10 years, reaching around £16bn in 2011."

But restrictions would be imposed on immigration from Croatia, he said.

"We know that appropriate immigration controls are crucial for stability in our labour market, particularly in the current economic climate," he told MPs.

Welcoming the bill and praising improvements in the accession process, shadow Europe minister Emma Reynolds called for the seven-year maximum period of transitional immigration controls on migrant workers to be applied.

But Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was "commiserating" with Croatia which was joining "an organisation that others may be looking to get out of".

"One always has a certain sympathy with those nations that have gained their freedom not so long ago who now wish to hand it over to another organisation," he said.

MPs backed the bill without a vote, despite Mr Rees-Mogg's reservations.

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