I think this issue has finally pushed me over the edge, and I now want OUT of the EU. It pains me greatly to say this, and I hate finding myself on the same side of any argument as David Cameron, but the prospect of several hundred thousand more eastern Europeans arriving in the UK fills me with dread. Why wouldn't they come here, when they can perfectly legally multiply their salaries several times over? And yet we have a huge unemployment and debt problem in the UK already. The last thing we need is another great influx of people from Romania and Bulgaria.I was in Bulgaria last week. It is hard to assess the numbers who will migrate, let alone to Britain, but there are plenty of people who say they will make the journey.
In the end, the discrepancies in wages are too hard to resist. The average annual wage in Bulgaria is about £4,000 compared to £26,000 in the UK. My colleague Emma Jane Kirby found Bulgarian doctors hoping to earn ten times as much in Germany or the UK.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski told me: "For sure some Bulgarians will try and work in Britain. Most of them will look for proper work rather than taking advantage of the welfare system."
But the fear remains that some immigrants will not look for, or find, regular work.
So some EU countries are agonising over how to respond to the lifting of travel and work restrictions. The Times reports that 16 German cities have written to Chancellor Angela Merkel saying they cannot cope with the new arrivals and asking for emergency help from the beginning of next year. Some German politicians openly agree with some of the concerns raised in the UK.
It's also very personal, because I've already seen what the recent Polish immigrants have done to the British countryside with their foraging activities (i.e. stripping it of everything edible, as if it was a competition to demonstrate the extent of one's personal greed). Do I want to see more of that? No I bloody do not. There are too many people on this island already. An extra 500,000 or 1 million, is a disaster. It is the result of politicians not thinking through the consequences of their decisions, being totally out of touch with the people they are supposed to represent and thinking too much about great idealistic plans without dealing with the bothersome details.
On balance I believe that the benefits of being a member of the EU are now outweighed by the drawbacks, and unless there can be some sort of renegotiation that prevents this sort of mass migration, it is time to get out. For the first time, ever, I can now say that if there was a referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EU, I would vote no. I would vote to get us out of there. I can hardly believe I am writing this, but there you go.
I do not think that the UK is ready to be part of a super-state which also contains places like Bulgaria and Romania. And the fact that people in Germany are now openly saying the same thing, combined with the ongoing joke that is the European single currency, makes me wonder whether the entire EU project needs to be rethought, regardless of the issue of the UK's continued membership.
Also, is it actually in the interests of Bulgaria and Romania that loads of their medical staff are going to emigrate?? It is potentially disastrous for the people of those countries too (those who actually stay home...)
So 85% of the British population do not want these people to come here, because they fear that our public services can't cope. And they are right to fear this, given the current state of our schools and hospitals. This is a recipe for something very unpleasant, socially. I suspect that those people from Romania and Bulgaria who arrive in the UK early next year are going to receive a very frosty welcome from the natives.Most importantly, the minister tried to shut the door on a proposal that the government should extent the current controls beyond New Year's Day.
"It simply isn't legally possible," he said. "Treaties would have to be amended. It would not be complicit with treaty obligations."
And then came the polls. By a huge majority those polled did not want a new round of immigration. Some 85% feared schools and hospitals could not cope.