A few years ago there was a great deal of alarmist nonsense talked and written about the influx of Labour from the countries that joined the European Union in 2004. In particular, there was considerable concern that thousands of Poles would swamp the UK.
In fact, as we now know, it did not happen like that. These "economic migrants" were precisely that. Since they had an easy travel regime, they came to the UK freely, but they also left, equally freely. In fact several economists have suggested that the advantage that Britain has had over the past few years in economic performance against France was solely because Britain adopted a more liberal attitude to workers coming from Eastern Europe.
For sometime now, the tide has been in the other direction, and Poles and others are returning home. We now notice that the restrictions that the government put up against workers from Romania and Bulgaria when they joined the European Union were, as Liberal Democrats argued at the time, damaging and counterproductive.
However, easing the restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians, as we are supposed to do in time anyway, will not really help the UK labour force too much. Most of those who wanted to move overseas have already done so, and the UK would not necessarily be a priority anyway, given the linguistic links that Romania, for example, has with Italy and France.
There is, however another country where the UK might think of looking for a pool of well educated and hard working labour.
It is Ukraine.
Ukraine is a slightly larger country than Poland, but would also like to follow in the footsteps of its neighbours into the European Union. Furthermore, because the UK has not joined the Schengen accord, it is perfectly free to create a more relaxed visa regime that encourages the kinds of workers that the UK needs to move here, in the same way that the abolition of restrictions opened up Britain to Poland.
This is of course a mutual economic benefit for both the UK and Ukraine, but it also carries the real possibility of significant political benefits too. Ukraine needs to benefit from new skills and would certainly gain from the remittances that their workers are likely to send home. Like the Poles too, there is also a long standing social infrastructure as anyone who has spent time in the Ukrainian Houses in London or Bradford can tell you. Creating stronger personal links between the two countries could lead to significantly increased investment and ultimately to a more Westernised Ukraine. For as long as Russia maintains its hostile stance to the West, we should do all we can to encourage Ukraine as an example of a freer and more prosperous society to shame the Putinistas in the Kremlin.
Freedom of movement of the Poles has benefited the UK enormously, as they return home, I can see the same benefits being repeated through allowing freer movement for Ukrainians.