By Neil Kennard
Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:
- Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Union.
- Such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.
Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union guarantees a right to all citizens of the Union, any person may move around the union and seek employment in any other member state without any fear of discrimination on the basis of their national identity – we are all Europeans together.
Except this is not actually true. When Romania and Bulgaria acceded to the EU in 2007, a number of member states including Britain (as well as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain and The Netherlands) all secured restrictions against nationals of the newly acceded countries, effectively locking them out of the respective economies and discriminating on grounds of nationality, contrary to Article 45.
In regards to the UK, any Romanian or Bulgarian who wishes to work in the UK requires a work permit or “accession worker card”, made by application from their employer (except for a select few categories), and in regards to low-skilled jobs, they are restricted to already existing quota schemes in agriculture and food processing sectors. High skilled migrants can apply under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme; overall a long and burdensome process.
All this however is on the verge of changing, on the 1 January 2014 the restrictions are lifted and all nationals of Bulgaria and Romania will be entitled to their full Article 45 rights, including the right to come and live and work in the UK.
The naysayers all argue that on the 1January 2014 huge numbers of Romanian and Bulgarian nations will rush across Europe all destined for the UK, with the result that the national infrastructure, education systems, and health systems etc will simply buckle under the unmanageable number of migrants. This is in part based on the 2004 enlargement, and the then Labour government grossly underestimating the number of Polish migrants moving to Britain.
I argue that this will not be the case for a number of reasons. Firstly in January 2014 a much larger number of western member states will lift the restrictions at the same time, unlike the situation in 2004. Those Romanian and Bulgarian nations looking to move in January will have many more options than just the UK. Secondly, we already have a large hard working contingent of Romanians and Bulgarians here already (roughly 94,000 Romanians, 47,000 Bulgarians), those who gained the legal right to work through the permit system, and with the UK welcoming highly skilled migrants. And thirdly, economic migrants within the EU tend to fall into one of two groups: those who move abroad for a short period of time to earn money then move on, often working the lower paying jobs that can struggle to attract candidates; or long term migrants who are likely to settle here, work and start a family. Both economically contributing to the UK economy. Fourthly and finally, comments from the Romanian and Bulgarian embassy’s suggest that most of those who have considered moving have already done so, and that of those remaining citizens still considering moving most will tend to focus on Spain or Italy, counties where the climate is better and closer to their own home climate, and also with languages derivative from Latin, and thus easier to learn compared to northern European Germanic languages.
Regardless of the numbers in January, the British Government is looking to tighten access to the state benefits system as a means to reduce benefit tourism; I would argue, that of course some may move to try and abuse the benefits system and a tightening of the rules may not be a bad idea, but the vast majority who arrive will be hard working, economically active migrants, seeking only to enjoy their right to employment under Article 45 that we in Britain and most of the EU currently already enjoy without restriction.