© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002. "Britain risks huge influx of east Europe migrants By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor Millions of workers from eastern Europe will be eligible to work and settle in Britain from the moment their countries join the EU in 18 months, the Government announced yesterday. Britain is to waive its right under the accession treaty to delay extending full work opportunities to new members for up to seven years. This could make it the main target for migrant workers, campaigners said last night, as Germany and other major economies were imposing restrictions on movements from the East. The accession treaty, due to be signed by leaders in Copenhagen this weekend, will clear the way for Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to join the EU. Ministers said that allowing migrant workers from these countries into Britain at the earliest opportunity would help the economy. But Oliver Letwin, the shadow home secretary, challenged the Government to explain why it had not made use of the transitional arrangements. "We live in a small and crowded island," he said. "Why does the Government consider it appropriate not to have transitional controls when other EU countries have imposed them." Germany, fearful of a large influx of migrant workers, will strictly control immigrants from applicant countries for up to seven years, although there are exceptions for various professions and additional agreements could be reached to allow more in. Besides Britain, only Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Greece have said they will open their labour markets fully to the new EU members on May 1, 2004. Citizens of Malta and Cyprus, which are also joining, will not be subject to employment restrictions. "This is a decision with potentially massive consequences," said Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch UK, an independent think-tank. "With other major economies delaying opening their labour markets, there could be a substantial flow into Britain to add to the flow from third world countries." The Government said it did not expect any large movements of labour. But the European Commission estimated last year that there would be 335,000 additional net migrants a year to the EU if immediate freedom of movement were allowed. With many eastern Europeans thought to be working illegally in Britain already, the Government might have considered it better to regularise their work and collect tax. But Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said of the treaty: "This is in the UK's interests. It will attract workers we need in key sectors and is part of our managed migration agenda." He said that restrictions could be reintroduced if there was an "unexpected threat" to particular regions or sectors of the labour market. But Home Office research suggested that the numbers would not be "significant". Mr Straw said: "The evidence is that emigrant workers return to their countries after joining the EU, thanks to the increased stability and prosperity that membership brings."