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 8.

    Why should we give up even more of OUR country to even more immigrants to have it concreted over with houses for them, school place shortages, extended hospital and GP waiting times and so on. Where I live it is like being in Poland. They are not in skilled jobs, live 6-8 in a house so are happy with minimum wage to share the bills.They are not friendly, do not mix and don't even like us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    This uncontrolled EU Immigration only compounds the true reason as to why there are so many unskilled jobs available for the migrants to fill. The wages are almost criminally too low - too low for British nationals to take up, but fantastic for people struggling on 5 times less in their own country. Plus they are also entitled to benefits.
    The real winners = unscrupulous employers

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    The problem is not just migrant workers from the EU.
    Look how the government is dealing with immigration from outside the EU.
    Relaxing immigration from China, so that UK visa's are no longer required to visit the UK, as long as a visa to another EU country has been obtained.
    Governor of the BoE, from Canada, police chiefs from anywhere in the world.
    No building of affordable rental housing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Here in the UK we are short of many things. Things like good and honest politicians, housing, school places, health care, energy, seats on trains, and space on our roads on which we can drive. What we are not short of is people. What is the benefit of even more uncontrolled immigration (oh yes it is!) for the citizens of our country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Any area in the UK where there is a decent amount of work, any type of work needs to hold their breath, because they WILL come. Romania has nothing to offer them unless they have money, so they will come and go for every job on offer. The strain on services for those that cant immeadiately find work is going to cause the tories one massive headache and this WILL be reflected in the 2015 vote.


Comments 5 of 19



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