IT IS interesting to note the Tories tying themselves in knots as they try and stave off Ukip and Eurosceptic back-benchers through calling for a cap of 75,000 on the number of European Union immigrants entering the country (your report, 23 December). The catalyst for this is concerns over Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants “flooding” the country when the UK opens its labour market to them on 1 January.
Trying to restrict the movement of EU citizens, as Prime Minister David Cameron is proposing, is illegal as the free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed to EU citizens by the treaties, something the UK government was surely aware of when it signed up to these. In addition, the numbers being bandied about of those entering from Romania and Bulgaria is simple scaremongering.
The UK today is less attractive to would-be immigrants than it was ten years ago when it opened its borders to the eight largely eastern European countries that joined the EU. Immigrants, incidentally, who have – according to a study by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford – made a positive contribution to the country’s public finances in each fiscal year since their EU accession. In 2004, only the UK and two other countries did away with almost all restrictions for workers from these eight countries. This time, all EU countries are opening their labour markets to Romanians and Bulgarians and the UK economy is not in great condition. The potential influx of Romanians and Bulgarians into the UK may, therefore, be more an issue of perception than reality, pawns in an increasingly ugly game as the Tories fight for their political survival.