Following the MI5 exposure of a gigantic home-grown Islamic terrorist plot in early August and the rapidly approaching integration of Romanian and Bulgarian territories into the EU, the British public have begun to demand a tougher policy on immigration. In a poll conducted for the Sunday Times, it was revealed that “half the population has serious doubts that allowing foreigners to settle in Britain is good for the country.” The key findings on the public’s view of immigration were as follows:
1. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement?
‘Immigration is generally good for Britain’
Don’t know: 2%
2. Should laws on immigration be relaxed, kept same, made tougher, or don’t know?
Kept same: 17%
Made tougher: 75%
Don’t know: 2%
3. Should the government set a strict limit on the number of immigrants allowed into Britain each year?
Don’t know: 2%
Interestingly, immigration is not straightforwardly seen as good for Britain, laws on immigration should be toughened and the government, against all its wishes, faces a public demanding a strict limit on the number of immigrants allowed into Britain each year.
The British people have been deceived on the extent of immigration occurring subsequent to Eastern European integration into the EU. Workers from the Eastern European countries integrating into the EU in 2004 (the A8), applying for work in Britain was expected to number 13,000. In fact, within two years, the number of Eastern European workers entering the country, registering on the government’s worker registration scheme, totalled 447,000 immigrants, with 20,000 still to be approved. The real figure may be as high as 600,000. Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty, told BBC television: “Migrant workers from the accession states are benefiting the UK by filling skills and labour gaps that cannot be met from the UK-born population […] We are yet to take a decision as to what access Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will have to our labour market.”
The Conservative Party shadow immigration minister, Damian Green, reacted to the data by suggesting that it should prevent the Labour government “ducking and diving on the issue of Bulgaria and Romania entering the EU,” adding, more importantly, “it is vital that we learn the lessons of the unprecedented numbers who came into this country after the last expansion of the EU.” The shadow immigration minister was correct to term to the influx “unprecedented” – 447,000 is a deceptive longshot from 13,000 immigrants, even following the poor track record of New Labour deception.
So, given our past experiences, what kind of labour market access will Britain be able to offer workers from the new EU member states? The “open door” policy of 2004 will buckle healthcare, education and housing systems, and banjax the economy. When the newcomers joined the EU in 2004, Britain, Ireland and Sweden immediately opened the doors to newcomers. Portugal, Greece, Finland and Greece only abolished those labour market barriers this year while Germany and Austria continue to insist on barriers until 2011.
The UK trade and industry secretary, Alistair Darling, assured that the system will now be “properly managed.” The government’s own expectations for the 2007 EU Enlargement are that between 60,000 and 140,000 Romanians and Bulgarians may arrive in Britain in the first year period. Some degree of tension may have already been created, after it came to light that the Bulgarian government had granted citizenship to 23,500 immigrants in the past five years, all in anticipation of entry into the EU, and more crucially, many of them waiting for a first-class ticket into Britain. The Bulgarian government attacked this position, despite the obvious increase in the number of citizenship applications into Bulgaria. The UK trade and industry secretary’s assurance that the system will be “properly managed” has also been reflected in the Home Secretary – John Reid’s – call for controls, fearing a complete strain on housing and public services. In my view, the Labour government will place some restraint on immigration but not the necessary measures to satisfy its already disgruntled electorate (the New Labour party are already suffering a nineteen-year low).
What kind of immigration measures are called for, in anticipation of the 2007 EU Enlargement process, incorporating Romanian and Bulgarian workers? The most sincere voice appears to rise from Labour MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field. In July, Field effectively called for “an end to mass immigration”. His point was clear: the current levels of immigration are simply unsustainable. “Why is the Government blindly leading the country to a disaster that will result if this open-door policy continues? The most charitable view is that it has no idea of the erupting scale of the movement of people.” Now that the true number of workers upon 2007 EU accession has confronted the Labour government and the public alike, it may have some problems in ignoring Frank Field’s concerns again. As he has demanded in the past, the government needs nothing short of a “quota system on entrants to the country. […] It should impose a ban on the movement from accession countries until all our European partners agree to open up their labour markets.” On Monday 21st August, Field further commented that the quota system will need to be introduced by the government as part of a serious immigration policy: “The Government has to take back control of our borders by introducing a quota system reflecting the needs of the economy so that an elected and accountable government in this country determines the flow of new workers.”