The pace and scale of immigration has caused serious issues for our community in North East Cambridgeshire. A national policy under Labour of massive immigration was not matched with the funds to meet it. The arrival of more migrants from Romania and Bulgaria after 1st January 2014 risks making this worse.
The last Labour Government put in place national funding formulas for public services like schools, health and police, which left shire counties like Cambridgeshire at the bottom of the funding league. Furthermore, they failed to provide additional funding to deal with the localised impact of high levels of immigration into areas like the Fens, placing an increased demand on services.
Although Downing Street is proposing an extension to the period that EU migrants need to spend in the UK before they can tap into our welfare system, this does not go far enough. I am calling on the Government to extend restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian nationals from coming to the UK until after an EU referendum.
Fears over any repercussions emanating from the European Courts are over-exaggerated. The slow pace of Brussels means that any action would take a minimum of four months to get to court which, followed by an inevitably long case, could give our communities a welcome reprieve. During this time, it is reasonable to assume that those keen to move from Romania and Bulgaria would travel to other European countries in search of work.
Indeed, as David Cameron found when he called for the first cut to the EU budget, we may find that bold, decisive action like this would empower other major Member States who have similar concerns about freedom of movement to follow the UK’s lead.
Many of these member states did not have to deal with the consequences of a large influx of migrant workers as the UK did when Labour took the disastrous decision to be the only European economy not to place transitional controls on migrants in 2004.
Temporarily blocking the arrival of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria is presented by opponents as being anti-immigrant, yet it is invariably the most recent immigrants into the country who stand to lose most from further immigration from Romania and Bulgaria.
Whilst wealthy business owners can expect to benefit from the increased availability of cheap labour, I remain concerned that many of my constituents would not share the same economic benefits. This applies just as much to people who have recently arrived in the UK as to long standing residents. In short, new arrivals tend to keep down the wages of those on modest incomes, rather than impacting those who are best paid.
Parliament should assert its sovereignty on this issue. We need to extend the transitional arrangements until the UK has had an opportunity to renegotiate the current rules on freedom of movement, and put this to a referendum.