Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Polish Ebb tide

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.


Tristan said...

Its somewhat amusing that as Poles are tending to go back to Poland the Sainsbury's near my work has just started stocking some Polish produce.

Then again, given its in Chiswick (and my local Tesco in a less affluent area has had Polish products for a long time now) it could be a sign of increasing affluence in the Polish community.

asquith said...

Excellent post. I think Eastern European immigration since 2004 has been an enormous success. In our towns and cities, there are standing retorts and refutations to the filth the Daily Mail spews. The last thing we should be doing is pandering to the ignorance of the "they're taking our jobs" brigade.

I myself would certainly become an economic migrant if I lived in a poor country. Why should I curse people for showing enterprise and bettering themselves? It's more than some of the idiots who were born here are capable of doing.

I was looking at your link to Phillipe Legrain. Brilliant stuff.

Anonymous said...


This was of course inevitable. Just as inevitably a substantial portion albeit a minority will remain. This is a good thing. I would be interested to hear what you made of the Polish descended MP for Shrewsbury sticking it to the BBC for their treatment of Poles today.

With Ukraine I think the Poles themselves may have beaten us to it.


Newmania said...

The lie that Polish immigration has been of any benefit is only possible if you ignore the costs.

Other immigrant groups are certainly a larger burden per capita and the continued dissonance between the elite and the people over immigration is a betrayal.
Kent is now regarded as a no go area for the indigenous people as its immigrant community is dragging house prices down fast and the rest is following.

I depair at the ignorant doctrinally based immigration fanatics whose lives are never effected and who have no love of the coutry in the first place .Another anti democratic log jam supported by those who in their hearts belivee themselves to be a natural ruling class.

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