Today I am travelling to Romania to see what we can do to limit the flow of immigrants from Romania to the UK once EU restrictions on free movement are removed this coming January.
The Romanian Ambassador recently told us at the Home Affairs Select Committee that he expected 15-20 thousand Romanians to move to the UK annually once restrictions were removed. His Bulgarian counterpart estimated that the annual movement from Bulgaria would be 8-10 thousand. Others such as the respected think tank Migration Watch have estimated higher.
Along with Keith Vaz MP, our Chairman, and fellow Conservative James Clappison MP I will, over the next couple of days, be seeking to understand the extent of poverty and unemployment and other factors which might ‘push’ people to leave Romania, and see what can be done in the UK to discourage substantial immigration from Romania and Bulgaria.
The government is bringing in a new Immigration Bill which may help in some areas, although I wish some actions had been taken earlier – and suspect these were previously vetoed by the Liberal Democrats.
One key problem we have in the UK is the interaction between immigration and our welfare system. Unlike other EU countries, except Ireland and Denmark, we have a means tested rather than contributory system which pays over quite substantial tax credits to people with low and some middling incomes who have children. This may be quite a draw to Romanians and Bulgarians even when they want to work.
Of course my preferred solution is to leave the EU as soon as possible and take back control of our own borders to decide ourselves whom we allow into our country.