Letter to British Home Secretary - Dr John Reid

Letters to the Editor | October 26, 2006, Thursday // 00:00

Dear editor,

I thought you would be interested to see the letter I sent to the home secretary - with copies to my relevant MP and MEPs.

Dear Dr Reid

I read, with some dismay, your pronouncement upon the way you intend to treat the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania upon their accession to the European Union on January 1st 2007. It is, I feel, not a position arrived at following deep thought about the implications of their accession but a decision prompted by fear of the media attention that would be bought to bear should you do nothing.

Your statement to the house read: "over the years Europe has prospered by letting people move and trade freely", and this is true.

In 2004, when the 10 new countries joined, the population of the EU expanded by something like 20%, and we allowed free access to out labour markets. You claim (and I do not disagree) this has been a success. Now, with Romania and Bulgaria joining, the EU is set to expand by a mere 6.5% and yet this is suddenly a much greater problem. Yes, you (or at least the home office) did, through your own incompetence, grossly underestimate the number of immigrants from the EU 10. This allowed the media, in a bellicose and xenophobic mood, to portray immigrants as bloodsuckers on our economy, when the reverse is true.

You defended yourself but then, when it came to Bulgaria and Romania, you lost courage and pandered to the petty ravings of the xenophobes and racists. It is something that you personally should be, and should remain, deeply ashamed of.

You stated, "studies have shown no evidence that they have taken jobs away from British workers or undercut wages". So what's the problem? You know, as well as I do, that the immigration from Romania and Bulgaria will be on a significantly smaller scale than that seen from the EU 10. You are talking of an extra 30 million people joining the EU, from countries with populations that have already shrunk a great deal - as many people have already left for work in other countries. A huge majority of those remaining have no intention of coming anywhere near the UK and those that do intend to emigrate, are likely to head for Spain and Italy, not the UK. The Polish came to the UK for reasons of history and geography - for the same reasons the Romanians and Bulgarians will not.

You have left the door open for many migrant workers to come anyway, through the unskilled agricultural workers programme. So shutting the door in other respects is merely a sop to the racists and bigots and sends a very clear signal to Romanians and Bulgarians - saying that "I, Dr. John Reid, the man in charge of the borders of the UK, have no respect for you as individuals or as a nation and I am quite willing to use your nationality to pander to those in my electorate that are bigoted and uneducated. It is easier than educating them, and face it, racists have votes too". Because of that, as a British citizen, I too am tarred with that brush you have wielded and, for that reason, I am deeply offended. I am sure, when you retire from being a Labour government minister, the BNP will welcome you with a warm embrace for promoting their views so well: for demonstrating a belief that Eastern Europeans are lesser citizens, lesser peoples than us in the civilised West of the continent and are, consequently, to be feared.

Politics has always been a dirty business. Congratulations on achieving the sort of low that is rarely achieved in British front line politics.

There have been problems with health care, and schools in some parts of the UK. Restricting the flow from Romania and Bulgaria will not solve those and neither would allowing citizens of the "EU 2" to come make them any worse. These problems need to dealt with by good management, quicker allocation and re-allocation of funds and better general assessment of the needs of education and health authorities. All of these problems can be fixed, relatively quickly by the application of good, common sense, management skills.

Britain had been able to stand proud in the new EU, one of the few nations demonstrating genuine openness and reaping the financial benefits for all. Now we can not.

In the new EU, Britain will continue to be a net contributor for years to come, and Romania and Bulgaria net beneficiaries. Does it not makes sense to allow their citizens to come here, pay taxes into our coffers, which we then give to the EU and which are in turn passed back to them? Does it not make sense to encourage the economic development of Romania and Bulgaria so that they too, in time, will contribute more to the EU economy? Does it not make sense to allow people to come here, make some money and go home and improve the lot of their families - and make them all contributors to their economy? We all benefit in the end.

America became a great economy from its openness and willingness to embrace new peoples. Western Europe stagnated in the 1970s from its closed doors and protectionist governments.

Kindest regards

David Child

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