Begging in Bulgaria or Benefits in Belgravia?
By Richard Littlejohn
Daily Mail Online Edition
The Government is planning an expensive advertising campaign to dissuade Romanians and Bulgarians from moving to Britain when immigration restrictions are lifted at the end of this year.
It is said to centre on the fact that the weather here is much cooler and wetter than they might expect.
Brilliant. That should make all the difference. How many impoverished Eastern Europeans are likely to be put off by warnings that Britain is cold and damp?
Frank Sinatra said much the same thing about California, but that never stopped anyone moving there.
Ministers are desperate to counter the impression that the streets of Britain are paved with gold. But that’s exactly how it looks from Sofia and Bucharest, where migrants are already clambering in their tens of thousands to book their passage across the Channel in anticipation of a Life of Riley.
Who can blame them? The minimum wage in Bulgaria is 73p an hour compared with £6.19 here. Welfare benefits in Eastern Europe range from meagre to non-existent.
If you’re sitting in a crumbling, concrete, Soviet-era slum in Sofia, what’s not to like about Britain? Put yourself in their knock-off Nike trainers. Would you rather beg in the streets of Bucharest or sell the Big Issue in Bristol, while living rent-free in a modern council house and receiving an exciting range of welfare payments for your extended family?
So issuing an ‘adverse weather’ forecast is hardly likely to deter anyone. And any move by the Government further to restrict access to this country, to the jobs market or to the benefits system is certain to be ruled illegal by the European Court.
This is what being ‘at the heart of Europe’ means. Call Me Dave can hardly stand up one week proclaiming the joys of a liberal Britain ‘open for business’ and then sanction an international advertising campaign designed to persuade people to stay away.
Any attempt to frighten off Bulgarians and Romanians is doomed to failure. Face it, we surrendered control of our borders years ago. Britain can’t be ‘in’ Europe and expect to keep other EU citizens ‘out’.
We’ve been here before. When people from the eight EU ‘accession states’ were given the right to move to Britain a few years ago, the Labour government estimated that only about 13,000 would bother. In the event, more than a million settled here.
Given that there are 29 million people living in Bulgaria and Romania, it’s reasonable to assume we can expect an influx of at least 250,000 from those two countries, with all the attendant pressures on housing and public services.
So what is to be done? We need to persuade them that Britain isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Convince them that the idea of this country as a happy-go-lucky land of milk and honey is a myth.
This is where the Daily Mail can help. We should print millions of copies in Bulgarian and Romanian and airlift them to Sofia and Bucharest, where they should be given away free on the streets. A quick flick through the last couple of editions should be enough to make them think twice about relocating.
Take education. Do they really want to send their children to primary schools in which 40 pupils every day are expelled for attacks on teachers?
As for our wonderful NHS, would any self-respecting Romanian mother-to-be want to give birth in the hospital where a premature baby had his dummy taped to his mouth by a nurse to stop him crying?
If they plan to bring elderly relatives over, would they want them placed on the fast-track, stairway-to-heaven Liverpool Death Pathway as soon as they developed dementia, like 20,000 other sufferers each year?
What would they make of the news that the number of young women in Britain drinking themselves to death has soared over the past decade?
Do they really want to live in a country where every high street is infested with betting shops which feature casino-style slot machines more addictive than crack cocaine?
Would they feel safe on the streets when they read that dozens of dangerous criminals, including murderers, rapists and paedophiles, are simply walking out of open prisons every week and disappearing without trace?
If that bleak snapshot of Britain doesn’t persuade them to stay put or try their luck in Spain or Germany instead, nothing will.
Still, it’s not all bad news. They can at least comfort themselves that even if they commit a serious crime in Britain there’s no danger of them ever being deported to Bulgaria or Romania.
All they have to do is claim they would face ‘persecution’ back home, like the Sudanese rapist who attacked a 13-year-old girl but has been given indefinite leave to remain here under the Yuman Rites Act.
It’s all very well for Bulgarians and Romanians. They’ve got a choice. But what about those of us who live here already?
Cold and damp is the least of our problems.
I wonder what Bucharest is like at this time of year . . .