EurActiv received this open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron written by two Bulgarian professionals working in Brussels and London and decided to publish it for being timely and for the quality of the argumentation, without any editing.
“Prime Minister, Recent public statements of yours, including your article “Free movement within Europe needs to be less free”, published in Financial Times, warns Bulgarians and Romanians to think twice before coming to live in the United Kingdom.
While it is common for populist politicians to turn to immigration as an issue to be tackled, especially in times of economic hardship, we find the rhetoric you use worrying, the language of "finding" and "removing" potential immigrants from the UK alarming.
You have previously stated yourself that "migrant communities" are "a fundamental part of who we are” and that “Britain is a far richer and stronger society because of them", yet you openly support an anti-immigration campaign whose slogan is "Go home or face arrest".
To rectify some of the misconceptions that seem to underpin your stance on the subject, we are recalling the following key facts:
- A 2013 OECD report shows that EU immigrants (including Bulgarians and Romanians) to the UK have made a net contribution of 1.02% of GDP, as they are typically younger and more economically active than the general population. In the same vein, a recent study by the European Commission concludes that migrants of less affluent EU Member States are "net contributors to the public finances, having a higher rate of labour force participation, and making less use of benefits and public services" than the average of the host state.
- After lifting the restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian workers, job seekers from these countries are likely to fill the gaps in the labour market that have been recognized to exist in the UK. As the Centre for Economic Performance has stated, “there are potential economic benefits associated with migration, especially to fill gaps in the UK labour market – where there are shortages of workers, whether high- or low-skilled“.
- Bulgarians and Romanians have in fact been free to travel to and reside in the UK since 2007. The only change that took place on 1st January 2014 is that the citizens from these countries will be allowed to work in the UK without having to seek prior authorization by the UK labour authorities (as has been the case so far). Importantly, however, immigrants will need to find a job first, or in other words, someone has to employ them. It is surprising for us to see that you, as a fierce advocate of free market economics, no longer trust employers' wisdom in whom to hire. Why not leave it to those who are closest to the job market to decide who is best qualified for a given vacancy?
- Crucially, it is in your Government's power to stop any abuse of the free movement. EU law allows (and in fact encourages) Member States to expel migrants and ban their re-entry if they come to a Member State solely to exploit the host State's social system. As you may be aware, several Member States, including Austria, have enacted such legislation and have in fact expelled on that ground immigrants from Eastern Europe in the past.
- In case you should be concerned that Bulgarians or Romanians would be able to do the same job as your countrymen but would be willing to accept less compensation – and if you think that this is a real issue for the UK economy – your Government is free to introduce, for instance, a minimum wage for industries that are particularly affected. Again, EU law does in no way prevent the UK from making the regulatory choices it considers best for its economy.
Prime Minister, we appeal to you to rely on facts rather than myths, demonstrating that politics can rise above petty debates and actually serve the people.
Eva Paunova, Brussels, Belgium
Stanislava Kunovska, London, UK”