So what do the French and Germans know that we don’t?
By Andrew Green
Chairman of Migration Watch UK
The Daily Mail, London, 2 May, 2006
The news from Brussels today is another body blow to the credibility of this government's immigration policy. All the other major economies in the EU - Germany, France and Italy - have decided to keep their labour markets closed to east European workers for another three years.
That is not what we were led to expect when Britain decided to open its borders to workers from all the new EU member states two years ago.
Back then, the Labour government spin-doctors argued that the effect of this open door immigration policy would be limited to relatively small numbers, and that the results would be so wonderful for Britain that the rest of Europe would inevitably follow our example.
Now, the precise opposite has happened.
Only Greece, Portugal, Finland and Spain have opened up. In 2004 Portugal took 43 workers from eastern Europe. The others, taken together, admitted less than 17,000 in the same year. What do the other major countries of Europe know that we do not know – or are not being told?
For a start, they have seen the sheer scale of migration from eastern Europe to Britain. Far from a maximum of 13,000 predicted by the government, the total has reached 345,000 and we are still counting.
We do not know how many have since left the country but we do know that there are large numbers, self-employed and others, who appear nowhere in the official statistics.
European governments have also looked at the effect on our economy and have clearly decided that it is not for them.
The theory was fine. Western Europe would invest in the east and eastern workers would migrate west providing a low paid labour force and sending money home.
Eventually, their countries would reach the same economic level as the rest of Europe and we would all live happily ever after.
Perhaps, eventually. But we have to get from here to there and someone has to take the strain of lifting their economies to our level. At present, Britain is taking by far the largest share of the burden.
In many respects, of course, Polish plumbers and Latvian maids are a good thing - certainly for the middle classes.
And, of course, many employers are chortling.
A recent report from the Rowntree Foundation (a long standing supporter of the immigration industry) found that 'employers valued highly qualified migrant workers for lower-skilled and low-waged work.'
Who wouldn't value highly skilled people for low wages?
Better still if you don't have to pay the training costs - plumbers on a plate and no unions either.
The real problem is that immigration on this scale is highly divisive. It is seriously bad news for the low paid who find their wages nailed to the floor.
There are now a large number of British people on the national minimum of £5.05 an hour or £175.00 a week after tax. In London and the south-east it is hard to survive on that unless, of course, like many immigrants, you are living several to a room for a much reduced rent.
People like truck drivers who get their work through agencies are also feeling the pinch as some firms are now only employing migrant drivers at lower rates.
Sometimes it is even more direct. Recently, a building firm in Oxford laid off four British workers on a Friday evening and employed four eastern Europeans on the following Monday morning.
Such is real life on the ground. What about the grand economic arguments that the government deploys?
Well, most of them are bogus as the French, Germans and others have clearly concluded.
The government have claimed for three years that we need immigration to fill 600,000 job vacancies. Remember that?
Now, three years on, we have had net foreign immigration of 700,000 and guess what? We still have 600,000 vacancies.
How can that be? Simple when you know. Immigrants fill vacancies but they also add to demand for services which creates more vacancies so you get into an endless cycle of immigration.
Perhaps they will help with our pensions. Unfortunately not. This argument was dismissed by the Turner Commission. Why? Because immigrants also get older and need pensions themselves.
Obvious when you think about but the government still trot out this tired and fallacious argument.
What is clear is that 'inflationary pressures have been contained' (read: wages have been held down) so that interest rates are perhaps half a per cent lower and economic growth can be slightly higher.
Again, that sounds good. But immigration also adds to our population so production per head is very little affected. So why does the Government continue to rehearse the same old arguments that immigration is vital to the country’s future prosperity and try to suggest that to challenge this received wisdom is just small-minded bigotry?
European governments have taken a clear-eyed view of the pros and cons of immigration and have concluded from Britain's experience that uncontrolled immigration is bad for the low paid, bad for social cohesion and of only limited benefit to the economy.
So will out own Government now take heed? Hardly. Romania and Bulgaria are next in the queue. They expect to join the EU next January.
France, Germany and Italy are certainly not about to open their labour markets to such poor countries.
So if Britain goes ahead once again, with only Ireland and Sweden following suit, we shall face an even greater strain. What then?
Low paid workers in Britain are the ones who suffer the ill-effects of massive levels of immigration in terms of housing, health and education.
For years they have been ignored or condescended to by this government. And now the Conservative opposition appears to be tongue tied on the subject.
This leaves the field wide open to the extremists of the BNP - already tipped for greater success at his week's local elections.
This is dangerous. One has to hope, but without much confidence that the government will have a serious rethink about its entire immigration policy.
Sir Andrew Green is a former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Syria.
© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green
The Daily Mail, London, 2 May, 2006