hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Monday, 19 August 2013

Labour Migration: Just Close the Curtains

Alphen, Netherlands.  19 August.  There is an old joke about the state of the then Soviet economy.  Stalin, Kruschev and Brezhnev are sitting in a train.  Suddenly the train judders to a halt the locomotive having failed.  Stalin shouts, “shoot the engineers.  They are enemies of the Soviet Union”.  Kruschev demurs, “No!” he exclaims, “we need a new five year plan for the railways”.  Brezhnev has a better idea. “Tovarish, there is a much better solution.  Simply close the curtains and pretend the train is moving”.  Much the same can be said about the non-policies of Western European governments faced with the next wave of EU labour migration. 
With the ending of transitional controls on 1 January 2014 a large number of low income Bulgarian and Romanian workers will likely move to Western Europe under the terms of the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon.  For example Migration Watch, a well-respected London think tank, suggests some 50,000 will come to Britain each year for at least five years.  Add dependents and it is quite reasonable to assume that at least 500,000 Bulgarians and Romanians will move to Britain between 2014 and 2019. 
Many years ago I stood on the old inner-German border not far from the Gudow/Zarrentin crossing.  Anyone who witnessed the Iron Curtain that divided Europe will understand that the free movement of European people’s is one of Europe’s great achievements.  Indeed, as a principle free movement defines modern Europe.  However, should free movement of peoples mean unfettered free movement of labour at a time of profound austerity? 
This weekend the Dutch Labour Party Social Affairs Minister Lodewijk Asscher warned that further migration was a threat to ‘vulnerable’ low-paid workers in Western Europe and that the EU’s leadership was failing to recognise the danger.  Asscher’s message is clear; allowing a major influx of poor, migrant workers to Western Europe at a time of economic stress is foolhardy.  For many poorer communities already reeling from the last wave of immigration it will be like pouring oil on fire.
Boston, a small market town in Eastern England with a largely agricultural workforce, is a case in point.  Since 2001 Boston has seen an increase in the non-English population of 467%.  In 2001 Boston had a population of 1727 migrants in a total population of 55,800.  By 2011 the foreign population had risen to 9790 out of a population of 64600 or 15.8%.  By all accounts Boston is a social tinderbox and will not cope with another influx of low-paid foreign workers.
Across Britain the evidence is fast growing that another tidal wave of migrants is about to cross the Channel.  Last week government announced that between March and June 2013 the number of Bulgarians and Romanians coming to Britain had soared by 25% from 109,000 to 141,000 compared with the same time last year some nine months BEFORE the ending of transitional controls.  813,000 or 60% of all the jobs advertised on COMRES, the European Commission funded website, are for jobs in Britain with money offered to cover the cost of moving country.  Keith Vaz, the Labour Party Chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, has rightly chided government for not getting over to Bulgaria and Romania to get some idea of just how many workers are planning to travel to Britain. 
Plain common sense suggests mass immigration and austerity do not mix.  For immigration to be successfully assimilated by a society healthcare, housing and education must be provided.  Earlier this year the Accident and Emergency (A&E) wards in National Health Service hospitals came close to failing.  Much of the crisis was caused by rapid inward migration.  One respected economist has said that at least 250,000 new homes needed to be built each year for the next 25 years (compared with the current 110,000) simply to meet the needs of Britain’s current 63.5 million population.  And, at least 250000 new school places will be needed in England by 2015 to educate the young of that same population.  None of the above targets will be achieved.  An already creaking infrastructure is about to suffer another shock.
The issue of immigration is destroying trust between peoples and politicians because leaders are failing to address the causes and consequences of mass-immigration – labour exploitation and the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon.  Low-income salaries are at least four times greater in Britain than in Bulgaria and Romania.  Evidence from the post-2004 mass migration to Britain highlights the role of agencies set up to recruit Eastern European workers.  They systemically exploit migrant workers and distort the labour market. 
The Treaty of Lisbon belongs to another age signed as it was before the sovereign debt and banking crisis crippled Europe.  Sadly, Brussels will never accept that reality.  Therefore, action must be taken at the national level.  At the very least prudence would suggest that the provisions allowing for unfettered labour migration should either be temporarily suspended until after the financial crisis or a strict system of work permits introduced.  If that means breaching the treaty then so be it – either suspend the treaty or abandon common sense.
To increase mass low income migration and cut public services at one and the same time is a recipe for social, cultural and political frictions.  And yet that is precisely what is about to happen.  Sadly, the collective failure of mainstream Western European politicians to confront this most strategic of issues is simply fuelling popular frustration and the politics of hate.  It is the blind madness of European elites.
Labour migration: just close the curtains and pretend nothing is happening.  
Julian Lindley-French

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