X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Coffee House

What the government must do to prepare for Romanian and Bulgarian migrants

22 February 2013

5:13 PM

22 February 2013

5:13 PM

Ministers and MPs are nervous about a mass influx of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants putting the benefit system under strain next year. But ministers should beware, and learn from the political mistakes of the past. The failure to predict the scale of post-2004 migration to the UK from the EU caused major political problems for the Labour government. The public were left with the impression that the government was not in control of immigration and that Labour were contemptuous of public views and that they were even deliberately misleading them.

The Conservatives have less to worry about on the second point – polling suggests the public broadly support them on immigration – but they have plenty to worry about on the first. People are fast losing confidence that the Coalition can deliver on their promises, and critical reports continue to highlight institutional and administrative failings in the immigration system.

[Alt-Text]


In this context the decision by the Prime Minister and other Conservatives to play up public fears about the likely impacts of Romanian and Bulgarian immigration, while at the same time refusing to make predictions about its scale, risks reinforcing a public view that the Government shares their concerns but is not on top of the numbers. They should stop fanning the flames of public concern because 2014 will not be a repeat of 2004, not least because the UK has imposed the maximum transitional controls on migration from Romania and Bulgaria. Even in the years after 2004, when EU migration levels were very high, the UK economy proved flexible enough to absorb newcomers without major impacts on other workers. EU migrants make a substantial net contribution to the Treasury’s coffers, and are much less likely than British-born people to claim out-of-work benefits.

Crucially though, ministers also need to act now to make sure that the UK is ready to respond to whatever changes to migration flows do occur next year – it is perfectly possible to make good policy in the face of uncertainty. That means equipping local authorities to react quickly to local population changes, to make sure that there is not undue pressure on school places and other local services. It means working with farmers who currently rely on Bulgarian and Romanian fruit pickers to make sure that they can get their crops in if their workers abandon them work in other sectors. It means proactively supporting groups in the UK who are most vulnerable to labour market impacts (for example by improving the training and jobs offer for young unemployed people).

The Conservatives set themselves a political trap in opposition when they set a benchmark for Labour of predicting the unpredictable after 2004. Both parties should learn from their own, and each other’s, mistakes in the run up to 2014.

Sarah Mulley is Associate Director at IPPR

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close