UK should not 'go it alone' over opening Labour market to Romania and Bulgaria

May 15, 2006

The arrival of very large numbers of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the UK is a distinct possibility if the Government is one of a handful of EU states to ‘go it alone’ and again allows unrestricted access to the UK labour market to these countries when they join the EU as expected next January, says a new report out today. Read report.

Using the same methodology that the Department of Work and Pensions applied in assessing the relationship between the level of GDP per head in the new EU member states and the propensity to enter the UK labour market, think tank Migrationwatch has estimated that the numbers coming to the UK from these two countries could be 300,000 or more in the first 20 months. This should not be taken as a prediction, rather as an indication that the numbers could be very considerable.

‘These two countries will add another 30 million to the population of the EU. If the UK is again the only major EU country not to impose a transitional arrangement, further substantial immigration is to be expected,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Migrationwatch chairman. ‘The public realise that we cannot absorb unlimited immigration on a small crowded island. That is why 76% of us wish to see an annual limit to immigration. It is, therefore, essential that the Government wait for the decisions of the other major European countries before committing themselves.’

Sir Andrew said that the Migrationwatch estimate was based on the Government’s own methodology and is supported by the independent calculations of UCL Statistics Professor, Mervyn Stone.

‘We have to remember that, when the last batch of countries joined the EU two years ago, the government estimated that net migration to the UK would be between 5 and 13,000. Yet, in the period May 2004 - December 2005, there were no less than 345,000 applicants to the Worker Registration Scheme which applies to workers from the new member states. These figures do not include self-employed workers. Even allowing for a significant proportion returning home, the net migration will be many times the government estimate.

Sir Andrew said that in Romania and Bulgaria GDP per head, at $7,700 and $8,200 respectively, was less than a third of that in the UK which was $29,600. Unemployment was also higher – at 7% and 12% – compared to 5.1% in the UK. The recent IPPR estimate of 56,000 new migrants in the first year took no account of this greater poverty despite the evidence that it is a major driver.

‘These amount to strong ‘pull factors’. It is not the role of the UK to shoulder alone the full weight of a potentially very large influx.'

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