UK minister says Romanian UK Immigration estimates are 'meaningless'

Eric Pickles, the UK's Communities Minister, has revealed that a UK government report estimates that 12,700 Romanians and Bulgarians will settle in the UK in 2014. Speaking on 18th March 2013, Mr Pickles added that he considered that the figure was 'meaningless' and said 'No matter how many fancy calculations you can make, I don't know. The truth is, nobody really knows'.

Until Mr Pickles has made his announcement, UK government ministers had admitted that the government had an estimate but had refused to say what it was.

After 31st December 2013, restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians working within the EU will expire. Romanians and Bulgarians will easily be able to work in other EU countries.

UK press predicts mass immigration

The UK press has been full of predictions that many thousands of people will arrive in the UK from January 2014 onwards. They point to 2004 when Poland and several other former Eastern Bloc countries joined the EU. At that time, the UK government predicted that between 5,000 and 13,000 people would arrive from the new EU countries to the UK every year. It has since been estimated that over a million came within two years.

In February, the UK government revealed that it had an estimate of how many people it expected to come to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria from January 2014 onwards. Several government ministers, including Prime Minister David Cameron refused to say what the figure was. This led to speculation in the press as to what that number might be and led to claims that the government was concealing information.

When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, the UK, in common with all developed western European countries apart from Sweden, placed 'transitional controls' on the free movement of workers in order to prevent a further influx of European immigrants. Those controls are allowed to be in place, according to EU law, for seven years and so they will come to an end in December 2013.

UK government estimates 12,700 will come annually

The estimate of the number that will emigrate to the UK in 2014 was made by UK civil servants before the UK's current Coalition government came to power. Mr Pickles revealed the estimate when talking to journalists. He said that civil servants had estimated that the 12,700 would comprise about 4,500 from Bulgaria and about 8,200 from Romania.

But he said that no one knew how many people would emigrate to the UK. He said that he did not think that as many people would come to the UK as from Poland because of various factors such as these

  • In 2004, all western European countries apart from the UK, Sweden and Ireland introduced controls on the movement of people from the new EU countries. This meant that it was much easier to emigrate to the UK (or Ireland or Sweden) than to the other EU Countries
  • Bulgarians and Romanians have historical links with France and southern European countries
  • The populations of Romania and Bulgaria combined amount to less than the population of Poland.

Mr Pickles added that there were currently Romanian and Bulgarian workers picking vegetables on UK farms who were doing work that might not be done without them but said that the government is currently examining ways to prevent people who fail a residency test from claiming benefits or accessing public services in the UK.

The UK anti-immigration pressure group Migrationwatch UK has predicted that about 250,000 people will come to the UK from Bulgaria and Romania by 2019; about 50,000 per year. Until Mr Pickles revealed the UK government's estimate on 18th March, this was the only estimate that was in the public domain.

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