Honesty's the Best Immigration Policy

The Mirror (London, England), July 24, 2006 | Go to article overview

Honesty's the Best Immigration Policy


Byline: TONY PARSONS

THE Polish people are among the most likeable in Europe - a friendly, hard-working, freedom-loving bunch of grafters.

Which is lucky for us, as there are now around 300,000 Poles working in the UK - by far the largest number of foreign workers here, dwarfing the 175,000 who are from Ireland.

Since the expansion of the EU in 2004, 600,000 Eastern Europeans in total have come here to work - the largest wave of immigration this country has ever seen.

But much as I love the Poles, isn't it chilling that this massive change was not anticipated by our government? New Labour believed that only around 13,000 East Europeans would want to work here. They were out by more than half a million.

How do you say "whoops!" in Polish?

The trouble with New Labour's immigration policy is that it doesn't have one. What Professor John Salt of University College London calls "the largest single wave of immigration the British Isles have ever experienced" caught the government with its trousers down.

IT HAS worked out well for us. The Poles - and when we talk about East European workers, we usually mean Poles - work harder than British workers and for less money.

The Polish plumber has become an archetype like the Irish navvy, the Indian doctor, the Chinese cook, the Jamaican nurse and, my favourite, the Swedish au pair.

But there are also Poles on building sites, in shops and hotels. Increasingly, Britain is attracting Polish doctors and dentists, who are paid far better than they would be back home. Poles have been great for the British economy. They work hard. They do not come to Britain for a Ford Galaxy on the welfare state. They come here to graft.

When the EU expanded to include Eastern European countries, Britain was the only major economy that threw open its doors to their workers. The Polish plumber could also go to Sweden or Ireland, but France and Germany put strict caps on the numbers they were prepared to let in.

Britain's liberal attitude to immigration has been lavishly rewarded and it is one reason why our economy flourishes while those of old Europe stagnate.

Young, energetic, industrious Polish workers are a boon to this country. …

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