New year new life in the country for migrant workers?


Eric Pickles says he doesn't know.

vegetable picking Thousands of East Europeans come to work on British farms each year

And Jack Straw doesn't know either.

But he admits the Labour government, in which he served as home and foreign secretary, got it wrong by not imposing extra controls when EU expansion triggered the arrival here of migrant workers from eastern Europe.

The one leading politician who says he does know is the UKIP Leader Nigel Farage.

"If you open your doors to people from countries with significantly lower wages and GDP than the UK then migratory flows will come," he said.

In just over a month's time, restrictions on the number of Romanian and Bulgarian workers coming to the UK will be lifted.

From some sections of the press have come apocalyptic warnings that millions more migrant workers are about to flood into the Midlands labour market and add further to the pressure on public services including schools and health.

So what will be the impact?

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is one of a procession of cabinet ministers who have declined repeated opportunities to answer this question.

They say, that if you cannot give estimates that are reliable then it is better not to give any at all.

When I chaired a BBC conference earlier this year, attended by representatives of the Bulgarian and Romanian embassies here, they were dismissive of what they clearly saw as alarmist speculation.

Not only, they said, were millions of their low-paid workers emphatically not preparing to head to Britain, those relatively modest numbers who were considering it were likely to be top professionals like medics who would be assets rather than liabilities.

But from the perhaps unexpected quarter of the centre-left research organisation Demos, came a distinct note of caution: "Large and sudden arrivals can lead to extreme concentrations of migrant communities.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage addressing its party conference UKIP leader Nigel Farage has warned of 'migratory flows' from parts of Europe

"People from Bulgaria and Romania, arriving en masse, will naturally congregate in places where there is unskilled flexible work available and where friends and relatives may be already."

On Sunday Politics Midlands this week we will be reporting from Herefordshire where the number of migrant workers has more than doubled over the past decade.

Most of them are seasonal, of course, summer crop picking and the like. But remaining migrants are continuing to work even in the freezing gloom of November while others are tidying up and preparing for next year's harvests.

Most of them came here under the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Scheme which imposes strict limits on their employment here.

But from the new year, these restrictions will be lifted.

'Plans off course?'

Hence all those warnings, including Mr Farage's vision of "migratory flows".

If he is right, it would threaten what the Conservatives' hope will be one of their big themes in the 2015 general election campaign.

How could they claim to have reversed the trend under the Labour years if Bulgarian and Romanian migrants were driving all their deep-layed plans off course?

Net migration is currently running at 150,00 a year and the campaigning organisation Migrationwatch UK estimate this new influx could push that figure up to 200,000.

This, they say, would further aggravate the already serious shortage of school places and require a new house to be built every seven minutes for 20 years to cope with the demand.

Alp Mehmet, from Migrationwatch UK, will be among my studio guests this week. So too will the only Labour MP to say Britain's exit from the EU is "inevitable", Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston. Also with me, Phil Bennion, the West Midlands Liberal Democrat MEP, determined to defend Britain's place in the EU and his own seat in its Parliament in next year's European elections.

And I hope you will join me too from 11:00 GMT on BBC One in the West Midlands.

Patrick Burns Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Neither this government, nor the last, has built housing for the last wave of immigration this country has had. How then are we ready to expect the next wave of immigrants coming to this country, whether they be from inside the EU, or outside is immaterial.
    Will their be social cleansing by government, to move the poor from richer parts of the country to keep house prices and rents up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Time to rethink our place in Europe and stop getting UK citizens to carry the cost.Our systems are failing.Promises of action after the next election are always just carrots,the stick is being used now on those born in the UK to cover political incompetence.Having the right to say who comes or gets to stay in the UK is paramount to the security and wellbeing of our citizens form all walks of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    People of Britain, it's time to fortify your home and brace for anarchy- your neighbourhood will turn into slums or ghettos; you will lose your jobs, your home will be regularly broken into, you may even get kidnapped to be forced labour. Soon, you will wonder why did we not support of leaving the EU sooner... but now it's too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I am a Romanian living in America,because of the state of the economy here I will be arriving in the U.K. in the new year.Does any one have a problem with that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    We're full. The BBC's constant promotion of unprecedented levels of immigration - which was never mandated by government - in a time of massive unemployment and social unrest is disgusting. I suspect most of those constantly telling us how great immigration is have never had to venture into any of the ghettos they end up creating and are basing their judgement on cheap labour.


Comments 5 of 19



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