Don’t scaremonger – prepare communities for Romanian and Bulgarian migrants

The government's focus on restricting benefits will do little to affect the scale of immigration.

Alex Glennie is senior research fellow at IPPR

On 1 January 2014, temporary restrictions on the working rights of Romanians and Bulgarians in the UK will be lifted.

This has prompted much public anxiety about potential additional pressures that could be caused by new arrivals, stoked by media headlines forecasting large numbers of migrants.

In this climate it is not surprising that large proportions of the public would like to ‘defy’ Europe and extend transitional controls on A2 migrants, even though this is contrary to our European legal obligations.

The government shows no sign of going down this route. It has postponed discussions about the Immigration Bill and Romania and Bulgaria into January 2014 to avoid a vote on the issue.

But it has otherwise sent very mixed messages.

While sensibly refraining from estimating how many people may come and trying to downplay the most sensationalist predictions, it has also rushed through a series of measures to reduce migrant access to welfare benefits and ramped up anti-EU rhetoric in recent months.

Although very difficult to predict the numbers, it is unlikely that we will see the same levels of migration as we did after the A8 states joined the EU in 2004 – not least because other EU states (including Germany, France and the Netherlands) are opening their labour markets at the same time this time around.

It is also the case that Romanians and Bulgarians have already been able to live and work in the UK since 2007 and the statistics show that significant numbers have done so/. There are currently around 158,000 Romanian and Bulgarian migrants living in the UK.

However, we cannot be complacent and brush off legitimate public concerns. Lesson from A8 migration is that while UK economy is flexible enough to absorb large numbers of migrants, rapid and unexpected inflows do create specific pressures in some places – e.g. additional demand for housing, school places and health services.

Instances of antisocial behaviour and community tension can also be caused by the arrival of people who may be unaware of UK laws and customs. From January 2014, the government should make available a pot of money for use as a contingency fund to respond to any pressures created by migration flows from Romania and Bulgaria in the first six months of the year.

This could be set at the same level as the previous Migration Impacts Fund, although it would not necessarily have to be spent. It would simply be a contingency to alleviate any short-term pressures.

Government focus on restricting benefits responds to public concerns, and there is nothing wrong with this policy in principle, but it will do little to affect the scale of new flows – EU migrants as a rule are more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to be claiming benefits than Brits and other migrants, and the overwhelming majority come to work or look for work rather than to live off welfare.

The government should take a hard line against EU migrants who are not exercising their free movement rights to work or support themselves in the UK. However, it should also be alert to the fact that some migrants face exploitation or other structural barriers to working and contributing that need to be addressed.

Some small scale contingency measures to deal with any real pressures that might arise are much more sensible than last minute token gestures that will have little or no impact on flows and which only serve to ramp up public panic.

It is not too late for this – there are opportunities to create new structures and processes that will allow local areas to quickly flag up problems and request support from central government in managing them.

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25 Responses to “Don’t scaremonger – prepare communities for Romanian and Bulgarian migrants”

  1. Cole

    Blimey, no comments from any Kippers yet. They must have given up for Christmas. I hope they’re boycotting those brussels sprouts.

  2. Douglas Rooney

    For my sins I was listening to a speech by Nigel Farage the other day in which he claimed that on 1 January the UK could open up its borders to 29 million Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants. Really Farage? The entire population of Romania and Bulgaria could descend on Britain in January? Even the President of Romania thought the welfare system in Britain was so attractive that he couldn’t wait until his term ended to move?

  3. treborc1

    That stupid it will be 27 million

  4. Timmy2much

    Romania – 21,437,000
    Bulgaria – 7,446,000
    Total – 28,883,000

    Under EU law every single one of them has the right to enter the UK. This is a fact.

    Saying 29m B & R people WILL COME to the uk is a different statement and is one that has never been made.

  5. Timmy2much

    Fixed – but I wouldnt call it giving up – more getting on with life like everyone else does!

  6. Timmy2much

    “In this climate it is not surprising that large proportions of the public would like to ‘defy’ Europe and extend transitional controls on A2 migrants, even though this is contrary to our European legal obligations.”

    The EU breaks its own rules – under the lisbon treaty bail outs are illegal but the EU has done just that (and it was right to do so) . So if the EU is able to break its own laws when it is considered right to do so then by extension everyone can when it is considered it right to do so.

    Given that we have serious issues with providing places for school children, an infrastructure that is not designed for the number of users, and numerous other issues that immigration exacerbate then some would say it is right to limit further immigration until such time as these issues have been resolved.

  7. blarg1987

    We do need to change our relationship with europe, my view we need to get ivolved more atually take a more pro active role inshaping europe and it’s policies rather then sit on the side line and moan when we don;t get our way.

    With regards to immigration, a better system would be to have a transitional system whereby countries wanting to join are giving full membership when the mode wage matches the rest of europe. This would then help reduce any fears and doscourageportation of labour to reduce costs etc.

  8. Timmy2much

    Totally agree on your second point.

    As for your first, the simple fact is that the British way of doing things is different to that of mainland europe. I’m not saying it is any better or worse- just different.

    As a result we will always be against but out voted on pretty much everything, so the idea of being involved just wouldnt pan out well for us.

    Add to this the new voting rules coming in next year which will mean we will be railroaded down ALL eu policies come 2017 (see note at the bottom) – A policy we blocked recently is the creation of a euroarmy! (Thats a big thing because they could send said army in to any country AGAINST the wish of the UK – it needs a 100% yes vote to use atm, but that will change when they want it to – theyve done it before with the lisbon treaty – bank bail outs were actually illegal under lisbon)
    Another area that we will get hammered on is the financial sector – at the moment, much to peoples chagrin, the banking sector in this country is keeping us afloat, lose it and we collapse. EU members have already maid very clear that they want a piece of this cake and to do it they will destroy the London financial sector – and us along with it. Chances are we will get kicked out as we will have no more money left and they wont have enough to bail us out, but we will be damaging the euro due to the political links – remember that our dithering has already caused the euro to be downgraded.

    Dont think for a moment that they wont kick us out when it suits them,

    Integration with europe is NOT good for us

    The voting change:

    The standard system of voting in the Council of Ministers will be “Qualified majority voting” (QMV). It will be based on the principle of the double majority. Decisions in the Council of Ministers will need the support of 55% of Member States (currently 15 out of 27 EU countries) representing a minimum of 65% of the EU’s population. To make it impossible for a very small number of the most populous Member States to prevent a decision from being adopted, a blocking minority must comprise at least four Member States; otherwise, the qualified majority will be deemed to have been reached even if the population criterion is not met.

    The European Council agreed that the new system will take effect in 2014. In the first three years, until 2017, a Member State may request that an act be adopted in accordance with the qualified majority as defined in the current Treaty of Nice.

  9. blarg1987

    I see your second point, however the trouble we have had is by sitting on the sidelines from the very beginning, we do not have the influence in said policies.

    If we had been a founding member way back when it first started, we would have had a bigger voice in policy and direction then we do now, by influecning the policies that emerged such as the CAP etc.

    Because we joined later on it is more difficult for us to actually change policy.

    reading your point, i think the change is voting is probabaly a better polciy, however our flaw is that we don;t challange change in EU policies when other countries do not adopt same policies.

    If we did not agree with a policy say privatisation and then had the EU threaten to take us to court, we should say we are only following the precedent of France and Germany etc if you wish to prosecute please can you start with the biggest culprits.

    I can’t relly seee an EU army as a bad idea it might actually bee more benefitical as at the moment we technically are with NATO but under the thumb of America if you remember America’s view after 9/11 you are either with us or against us.

    An EU poloicy may help give us more leaway with regards to policy.

  10. Timmy2much

    Unfortunately we are not a founding member, that boat has sailed, so yes we might have been better off but that is impossible to confirm without rewriting history.

    The voting change is problematic in that Net recipients of the eu will be able to dictate policy – this means that the policies that the uk will most likely want put in place – the ones that require fiscal responsibility and by extension will impact on the net recipients – will just not pass and vice versa, they will put policies forward that can see them receive more money!
    Thats like giving your employers the right to access your companies bank account and take what they want.

  11. Cole

    And under EU law, we Brits can go and live in other EU countries – and several million of us have done that.

  12. Cole

    I saw Farage was out on Boxing Day backing hunting – which is opposed by 80 per cent of the British people. That will make him popular…

  13. Timmy2much

    Yes its wonderful for those at the top of the pile isnt it. Now go to your local estate, find a brit, and start talking French or German or Italian to them and see how far you get in that conversation.

    Typical europhole leftwinger always claiming to care about the people and trying to take the moral high ground while doing everything they can to cause misery and destitution for those that are in most need.

    Bravo on your (two faced) morality!

  14. Cole

    Judging by the personal abuse, I’ve hit a nerve there.. The point us that ordinary people – lots of them – can and do go and work in other EU countries. You may not like it, but that’s how it works.

  15. Timmy2much

    of that 80% I would say about 2% really give a damn – but they were asked a specific question.
    Oh…and it only had 1988 people in the study so just a minute while I give it far more gravitas than what it warrants!! before we

  16. Cole

    Er, that’s how opinion polls work. And they’re usually reasonably accurate. Of course, people who don’t like the results say it’s all a plot or it’s an unrepresentative sample. But you can’t expect Ukip types to be rational.

  17. Cole

    ‘The British way of doing things is different to that of mainland Europe’. Oh, those dodgy foreigners, plotting to rip us off. And some of them don’t even speak English, you know.

  18. Timmy2much

    The nerve you hit is a loathing of hypocrisy.

    The realities of the policy is that the small minority that do get this opportunity to work in the EU are far outweighed by the people being hurt by the policy.

    On top of this there is a good chance that those people who go and work in the EU countries are NOT doing factory work, they will be doing skilled jobs which more than likely would still be open to them if we were outside the EU but it would require a little more paperwork.

    Would you mind providing the source for the ‘several million’ that work in the eu

  19. Cole

    Well there are nearly 400,000 Brits living in Spain alone (compared to 550,000 Poles in the UK), so we’re not talking small numbers here.

    Factories? Have they mostly moved to China (except for the Germans, who were sensible enough to keep their manufacturing).

  20. Timmy2much

    There are still factories in this country – they mainly produce locally consumed items such as sandwiches and other food related products rather than export related items (though there are still some export factories of course)

    400,000 brits live in spain – how many are retired?
    Retired people are a totally different ball game we are talking about 550,000 poles who are (mostly) young and looking for work.

    I note that the figure you are probably using is about 2yrs old btw (sourced at the guardian) – The necessary information required to understand the make up of these figures was not available.

  21. Timmy2much

    ” I’m not saying it is any better or worse- just different” like a diesel engine and a petrol engine

  22. Cole

    There are about 1.6 million Brits living in EU countries outside the UK (Euromove).

    Germany has a much larger manufacturing sector than the UK, much of it for export. Of course our export orientated manufacturing (eg cars) would go into rapid decline if we left the UK, as Nissan have indicated.

  23. Timmy2much

    Im not saying its a plot Im pointing out that opinion polls are not always accurate (which is why you said usually!) and that accuracy is directly impacted by the number of people polled.

    Also if you asked someone a specific question they will usually give a specific answer. What isnt asked is if a policy to change the law back would affect their voting choices – which is why I pointed out that most people probably wouldnt give a damn and the poll shouldnt be given too much consideration when talking about popularity

  24. Timmy2much

    What nissan wants should not dictate the direction of the uk.

    Our export market is a cause for concern but the loss of car manufacturing will not destroy us. Thats before you take in to consideration that not all car manufacturing will up and leave within 10 years of a euro exit.

  25. Timmy2much

    Also, back in 2010 there were 4.02m eu nationals in the uk.
    What was your figure …1.6m !!! across the ENTIRE EU.

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