UNFORGIVABLE; (1) Britain Faces a New Wave of Immigrants from Eastern Europe. It Is Only a Matter of Time before This Government's Failed Immigration Policy Comes Home to Roost (2) SATURDAY ESSAY

Daily Mail (London), January 24, 2004 | Go to article overview

UNFORGIVABLE; (1) Britain Faces a New Wave of Immigrants from Eastern Europe. It Is Only a Matter of Time before This Government's Failed Immigration Policy Comes Home to Roost (2) SATURDAY ESSAY


Byline: SIR ANDREW GREEN

THERE is a loud sound of fluttering in Whitehall - the sound of chickens coming home to roost. As we prepare to open our borders to workers from Eastern Europe, it has finally occurred to the Government that there could be problems.

Reports of thousands of Roma packing their bags for a move to Britain have triggered headlines here - and, indeed, in Eastern Europe. What is going on?

Why should they choose Britain? Is it serious?

And, if so, why was it not foreseen?

In principle, the expansion of the EU to the East is very good news - both for them and for us. For them, it provides a stable framework for countries adrift after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They are returning to their historic and cultural roots in Central Europe.

For us, it is welcome news at the international level. The more members in the EU, the more the power of France and Germany is diluted and the looser will be the eventual Union.

But the devil is in the detail and, surprise, surprise, the Government has not thought it through.

The eventual aim is to 'harmonise' economic conditions throughout the Union so that poorer countries catch up with the rest and a huge stable economy results - one which can compete with and, indeed, stand up to the United States.

So far it has worked quite well. The last recruits - Spain, Portugal and Greece - are steadily catching up and Western Europe is settling down to a future together.

However, this process depends on the free movement of capital and labour.

The first has some problems. The second many more.

In the present case, the free movement of capital is leading to the diversion of substantial amounts of investment to Eastern Europe. Good for them but it means, at least to some extent, the export of manufacturing jobs from Western Europe.

But where we have really tripped up is over the free movement of labour. It worked last time. There was no massive movement of labour from Spain, Portugal and Greece - indeed, after some years there was a flow of migrant workers back home.

Two things are different this time. One is that the wealth gap between the EU and the candidate countries is even wider. The other is that EU citizens are now, broadly speaking, eligible for benefits in other countries of the Union.

The original purpose of harmonising social security was to encourage the free movement of those who wished to seek work in other EU countries.

WHAT was not foreseen at the time was that there might be groups of people in accession countries that might migrate for purposes other than to seek work.

So why should Britain be particularly in the frame?

Because we, alone among major EU countries, have opened our labour market to workers from Eastern Europe from the day they join - May 1 this year.

Greece, Sweden, Ireland and Holland are doing the same.

Denmark is retaining tight control of her labour market.

Other countries are continuing to require work permits for a transition period of up to seven years.

It is pretty clear that the British Government took this decision without thinking it through. It is acutely aware that, in Britain, there is a thriving black market for labour over which it has absolutely no control.

So it decided to let the newcomers work legally and collect the taxes. But no thought was given to the numbers, still less to the persecuted minorities such as the Roma and the possibility that they would, so to speak, jump on the bandwagon.

Indeed, the Government Paper estimating the numbers was published after the decision was taken.

It suggested that the total flow would be between 5,000 and 13,000 a year.

Migrationwatch UK - the independent think tank of which I am chairman - reviewed its paper and the available evidence and found that the Government's estimate was virtually worthless. …

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