Remember when Keith Vaz got himself down to Luton Airport a few years back to greet new Romanian arrivals getting off the plane, declaring in his rather pompous way that:
‘We’ve seen no evidence of people who have rushed out and bought tickets in order to arrive because it’s the 1st of January’.
This was in January 2014, when Romanians and Bulgarians were granted free movement to Britain for the first time, and on that day there was widespread guffawing among right-thinking people about how we were going to be ‘swamped’; Twitter, even more so than usual, was filled with humour that was ill-disguised class contempt and status competition. We were told by numerous publications, think-tanks and other bodies that the likes of MigrationWatch and Ukip were just scaremongering, and there would not be a huge influx of migrants from the A2 nations.
‘So MigrationWatch’s prediction of 50,000 a year over the next five years actually starts looking like a potential fall in numbers. It is not likely that fewer Romanians and Bulgarians will end up here but it is a possibility and one that is as worthy of consideration as all the “invasion” predictions that have more in common with astrology than demography.‘
Or, as this 2013 Open Democracy piece pointed out, notions that people will move to richer countries to earn more money are too simplistic because ‘serious migration studies…are aware that the drivers of migration are much more complex and that migration systems, migration networks, migration politics, opportunity-constraints structures, social and human capital, perceptions and imaginations, individual characteristics and emotions play crucial roles.’
Migration Matters also poured cold water on claims there would be a big surge in arrivals. The organisation’s director, Atul Hatwal, said:
‘Our belief is that the anti-immigration lobby have cried wolf once too often. Their claim is that as many as 300,000 new migrants will arrive from Romania and Bulgaria over the course of 2014. In truth we believe that figure will probably peak at around 20,000.’
A spokesman for Migration Matters went on to say that ‘if 300,000 migrants do arrive from Romania and Bulgaria then the opponents of migration will have shown to be correct’.
I guess that answers that one then, as there are now 413,000 Romanian and Bulgarians living in Britain, roughly 90,000 a year more since January 2014, compared to 6,200 Britons living in the A2 states. Ukip were shown to have been correct.
Migration patterns are a fascinating subject in big cities; why a particular group moves to one area can be a matter of chance, or sometimes a result of just one individual. Almost as interesting is the way that some ethnic groups follow their neighbours, so that Greek Cypriot migration to north London was followed by Turkish Cypriot, then mainland Turkish and now Bulgarian and Romanian. And there are now more Turkish Cypriots in north London than in Cyprus, something which Paul Collier pointed out in Exodus to illustrate the extent to which, given the opportunity, people will migrate in very large numbers, especially if there are already bridgeheads in the receiving country.
The economic impact on A2 migration is probably either neutral or mildly positive, the key economic worry being its effect on the still worsening housing crisis; the social costs of such migration are probably quite small. The real concern is for the impact on eastern and southern Europe, which is now enduring a brain drain of huge proportions, to the extent that places like Romania are emptying of young people. Will they be able to recover when their economies reach a certain point? I don’t know.
The real question for us is why are British journalists and other intellectuals so fantastically bad at making predictions? It’s especially odd because, in this case, Migration Watch were accurate in predicting A8 movement from 2004, so if someone had previously cried wolf and on that occasion a wolf had appeared, a rational person might give more weight to their opinion. But then this is not a rational argument, rather it’s a moral one that goes to the core of our identity and sacred values. Trying to convince someone otherwise is as futile as debating religion with someone knocking at your door on Sunday morning. Anyway, to any of my new neighbours in north London, Bine ati venit and добре дошли.