26 November 2013
The look on the face of the Polish Interior Minister was one of incredulity.
As the British ambassador in Warsaw a decade ago, I had met him to spell out HM Government’s immigration policy towards the former Communist nations of Eastern Europe, such as his own, once they became members of the EU in May 2004.
To his astonishment, I told him that controls on their citizens would be lifted immediately by Britain, with the new arrivals given full access to our labour market.
A droll, unconventional figure by the standards of the former Eastern bloc, he could hardly believe what I had said. ‘What’s the catch?’ he asked me.
‘No catch. It’s as simple as that,’ I replied.
My answer still did not convince him, especially as all the other members of the EU, apart from Ireland and Sweden, had decided to retain labour market controls on Eastern Europeans for seven years.
So he kept pressing me, perhaps thinking this was classic British wit. I explained there really was no catch.
The Polish minister instinctively knew what Tony Blair’s Labour government consistently denied: the immediate abolition of all border restrictions would lead to a surge of his people to these shores.
In 2004, the Home Office absurdly claimed just 13,000 would arrive. As it turned out, more than one million settled here over subsequent years.
Yes, this influx provided a temporary boost to our economy through the advent of cheap, youthful labour. But it also imposed a huge burden on our infrastructure, from housing to the welfare state.
Worst of all, it has significantly reduced the life prospects of young British people. Good jobs that would have helped them get a start on life’s career ladder have been given to foreigners.
From January, 29 million citizens from these poorer EU member states will have the right to live and work here.
It is little wonder, according to a poll conducted by the Mail last week, that no less than 82 per cent of Britons want border controls to remain in place. Yet the political establishment does not know what to do.
But there are two problems with the PM’s approach. First, it will do nothing to stop migrants from these countries coming here. And second, it is likely to fall foul of EU rules.
The new influx from next year may not be as big as the post-2004 tidal wave, partly because other EU states are lifting their labour controls at the same time, so there will not be the same intense focus on Britain.
Nevertheless, the most conservative estimate from the think tank MigrationWatch UK, whose forecasts have proved consistently reliable, has 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians settling here annually over the next five years.
This is in addition to many other arrivals from non-EU countries [who make up the great majority of immigrants] who make it past our border controls and who will intensify the profound upheaval that Britain is undergoing thanks to mass immigration.
The rate of immigration has regularly been running at more than 500,000 arrivals a year.
It is hard to think of any precedents for what is happening to change the face of our country outside earlier wartime convulsions.
Immigration has, of course, brought benefits [to immigrants and their families, not to our people]. Britain has traditionally been a tolerant place, built on trade and open to new ideas and new people [our tolerance and hospitality have been abused and exploited].
And a growing population has some obvious advantages [no, it doesn’t]. But the sheer speed and scale of these changes risks creating bewilderment and anger.
British-born taxpayers see the services patiently built up over generations becoming over-stretched and their national identity diluted.
The way we look at the most basic aspects of our historic freedoms is changing.
Instead of running our institutions according to shared values, we’ve been forced to comply with ever more oppressive rules that promote a supposed ‘fairness’ to make up for the fact that much of what we all had in common as an island people is diminishing.
This sense of betrayal is keenest among the less well-off who bear the brunt of the impact of mass immigration.
The affluent metropolitan elite might extol the joys of multi-cultural diversity, as well as trumpeting cheap Polish plumbers and Slovakian nannies.
But ordinary young Britons and workers are finding themselves squeezed out of the labour market.
At the peak of immigration under Labour, 80 per cent of new jobs were going to foreigners. So Gordon Brown’s pledge to create ‘British jobs for British workers’ was dishonest.
To make things worse, our education system is failing young people. This has dire effects on social mobility: too many school-leavers are ill-equipped to compete against migrants educated in more rigorous school systems abroad — even to the point of speaking and writing better English than British youngsters.
The other big problem is our £220 billion-a-year welfare system. Even at the peak of the economic boom, there were more than five million people of working age living on benefits rather than in jobs.
We ended up importing people to subsidise British idleness [this is ‘racist’ nonsense: people were imported in order to hold down real wages]. It is ironic this dismal state of affairs was enacted by the Labour party, founded to represent the interests of the British working class.
Labour politicians such as former Home Secretary Jack Straw now claim their open-door approach was ‘a spectacular mistake’.
But this was no ordinary error of judgment. In good part, Labour’s promotion of mass immigration was a deliberate policy designed to change the demographic profile and political DNA of our nation.
Peter Mandelson has said his party ‘sent out search parties’ to bring in more foreigners.
Labour was fixated by the modish chatter of multicultural diversity. But Labour also knew that it stood to gain from a growing migrant vote.
As a result, it weakened all sorts of controls just as the Human Rights Act made it difficult to deport illegal immigrants — and even foreign criminals and terrorists.
Whatever crocodile tears may now be shed by Labour politicians, these policies, whose enactment I saw first-hand, have brought about irreversible changes [not so: they can and will be reversed but by patriots, rather than the traitors who created the problem in the first place]. At the time, some Labour MPs were appalled at what was happening as migrants arrived from all over the world.
One told me in despair how he had acquired video footage of illegals from Africa walking off ships at an English container port without any action being taken by the border authorities. Yet the then Labour Home Secretary, when shown the footage, remained in denial that there was any real problem.
The troubles caused by large and fast immigration are going to get worse unless the Government takes action.
Among European countries, we are uniquely placed as an island to reclaim our sovereignty. What we need is the political will and a shared agreement across the political class.
If mass immigration remains a taboo subject among politicians for debate and reform, I fear real dangers lie ahead.
CHARLES CRAWFORD was British ambassador in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw. He left the Foreign Office in 2007 and now works in the private sector.