I was a bit taken aback to find a comment on my blog saying: ”I know you as a party don’t like the Poles, and especially those who come to live and work in the UK”. It came from someone calling himself Patryk.
I’d be interested to hear quite how Patryk comes by this proposition, as it’s news to me. We have several Polish colleagues in our parliamentary group in Brussels, and we value them highly. I’ve never had a Polish staff member, but I’ve hired other Eastern Europeans, including a Czech and a Moldovan. I have also heard all the anecdotal evidence of the enthusiasm and commitment of Polish workers in the UK, and I believe it to be well-founded.
We used to face a situation where any references to immigration, or any doubts expressed about multiculturalism, were immediately dismissed as “racist”. Now, at last, both propositions have become mainstream and acceptable. Voters on the doorstep have real and well-founded concerns about mass immigration, and democratic politicians have a duty to respond to those concerns. And “multiculturalism”, at least in the simplistic sense, has been a recipe for social division and ghettoisation. Yet people like Patryk still make the lazy assumption that if UKIP doesn’t like mass immigration, then UKIP doesn’t like Poles.
Let’s say it one more time: UKIP’s concern about immigration is a concern about numbers, not about race, or nationality, or ethnicity, or religion. Excessive immigration has put huge and unacceptable pressures on our schools, our housing, our social services, our education — and our green belt.
There is also a debate to be had about the economic impact of immigration. Despite the best efforts of the left, they’ve failed to make the case that immigration offers major economic benefits. It certainly benefits companies that hire enthusiastic, hard-working and committed foreign workers (including Poles) at competitive rates. But it disadvantages British workers who find there is more competition for jobs and downward pressure on wages. This issue should be decided democratically in Westminster, not by arbitrary and general EU “free movement” rules. We need immigration, but the numbers and the skills required should be determined in the UK by democratic processes.
Perhaps Patryk would also tend to assume that UKIP doesn’t like Romanians and Bulgarians either. Certainly we’ve talked more about them than about the Poles recently, because we’re concerned that from January 2014, just four months away, 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians will be entitled to come to the UK. Many thousands have jumped the gun and are here already. And no, UKIP isn’t saying that 29 million will come. But we do expect hundreds of thousands.
It’s worth mentioning that even Romanians already living in the UK may not be enthusiastic about free movement — and may not be opposed to UKIP’s position. Certainly we’ve heard from Romanians in the UK who are embarrassed by stories of their very poor and unskilled compatriots living rough on the streets of London.
Let me just reprise the reasons why the UK is a magnet for unemployed Europeans. I have written about it before. We have Europe’s most popular language — English. We have higher wages and better social and health services than many European countries. And the EU’s “employment portal” (which we partly pay for) carries predominantly British jobs, and offers help and advice on applying.
We won’t solve the immigration issue until we control our borders, and we won’t control our borders until we leave the EU.