They want to be able to suspend the Schengen rules in “exceptional circumstances” to allow the reintroduction of full checks on travellers crossing borders in mainland Europe.

The demand, from the governments of two of the founding member nations of the European Union, is seen as an indication of growing dissatisfaction with unrestricted free movement in Europe.

It is also a blow to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Earlier this week he called for the Schengen Zone to be extended to include Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.

A spokesman for the Get Britain Out group said: “Even the countries at the core of the EU are now realising just how ridiculous free movement is.”

Twenty-six European nations, including 22 of the 28 EU member states, are signed up to the Schengen Agreement.

It allows travellers within the zone to cross national borders without passport checks and for goods to be transported freely.

Neither Britain nor Ireland are members and would not be directly affected by any change in the rules.

A confidential diplomatic paper today revealed the demand for the right for nations to temporarily suspend Schengen rules for up to four years.

Austria, Denmark and Norway have joined France and Germany in backing the idea.

Supporters of the plan say the suspensions should be allowed in response to major terrorism threats or concerns about illegal migration from outside the zone.

The emergence of the plan comes after the European Commission allowed the temporary imposition of passport checks in response to the migration crisis and the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Europe.

Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Nice and Barcelona are among cities on the European mainland that have been hit by terrorist attacks in the past 18 months.

The commission allowed a six-month suspension of the rules, but that period is shortly coming to an end.

Now senior politicians want a more formal system in place that would allow national governments to suspend the rules for up to four years, the diplomatic document indicated.

It added that “the total period during which border control is re-introduced shall not exceed two years” but “where there are exceptional circumstances that total period may be extended to a maximum length of a further period of two years”.

Earlier this week Mr Juncker denied claims that passport-free travel was “an invitation to terrorists”.

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