IN NO area of public policy does membership of the European Union limit our country’s right to pursue its national interest more than in the matter of immigration.
All mainstream political parties now admit that immigration throughout the early years of this century has been too high.
Much too high.
Few people any longer bother to deny that the huge volume of immigration, especially from the so-called A8 new EU member states, has placed enormous strains on society.
Youth unemployment began its long climb to nearly a million when the floodgates were opened to incomers from Poland, Lithuania and the rest.
At the time official Whitehall estimates suggested that only a few thousand would come.
It is very hard to believe that David Cameron would be so foolish as to throw open our borders voluntarily to all-comers from two sizeable and impoverished European nations
This newspaper warned that hundreds of thousands would. And this newspaper was right.
In fact more than a million eastern Europeans are thought to have moved here since immigration controls were lifted in 2004.
Back then Labour did not even implement the transitional controls allowed under EU law. That was a reckless and unforgivable decision.
Inevitably the vast migrant inflow put great pressure on many aspects of life from housing to school places, hospitals, welfare and community cohesion.
Yet instead of learning its lesson the political class proposes to make the same mistake all over again.
Once more the interests of the British people are to be sacrificed on the altar of EU rules.
This time it is 28 million Romanians and Bulgarians who are to get full access to our jobs market.
That is despite Britain only now emerging from a five-year economic depression and with youth unemployment remaining intolerably high.
It is very hard to believe that David Cameron would be so foolish as to throw open our borders voluntarily to all-comers from two sizeable and impoverished European nations.
He is only doing it because EU rules say he has to.
Yet the Prime Minister must know that what he is proposing is against the interests of the British people.
In effect he is asking his own country to “take one for the team”. But that team is one most of us would rather not play for at all: the EU.
In fact there are grounds for thinking that the Romania/Bulgaria experiment could go even more wrong than the A8 one.
For a start we are more full than we were back then.
And immigration from southern European countries such as Spain and Greece has already increased sharply as a wave of so-called “eurozone refugees” has headed our way.
Secondly, Romania and Bulgaria are two of Europe’s poorest countries, with average wage levels far below our minimum wage levels or benefit levels.
Given that life in Britain for an EU migrant comes with so many more advantages attached – from public services to an extensive welfare safety net – it may be quicker to ask which Bulgarians and Romanians would not consider moving here than those who would.
Ministers have refused to publish an estimate of how many they think will come, though the usually unerring MigrationWatch suggests something in the order of 50,000 additional migrants per year can be expected.
That would amount to the population of a city the size of Coventry in a single parliamentary term.
Then there is the awkward fact that Romania and Bulgaria have large populations of what are known in the politically correct jargon as “socially excluded groups”.
Such groups typically have very high welfare dependency rates and place a large strain on social services, which are already stretched in Britain.
They can also have a tendency towards crime and antisocial behaviour – as if we do not already have enough of that within our own citizenry.
Romanian gangs are already thought to be responsible for most cashpoint fraud as well as a lot of pickpocketing and shoplifting. From January they will be able to call up reinforcements from the mother country more easily.
And to the extent that the new arrivals do take up jobs it is likely to be minimum-wage work.
Given that a higher personal allowance is moving us towards a situation in which nobody on the minimum wage will pay income tax that means the benefits to the public finances of such workers will be negligible.
But the demands they put on the Exchequer could be huge.
Community relations are likely to be harmed and it may well be that it is Britain’s established ethnic minority communities who suffer the most from the extra competition for public resources.
This week the Prime Minister said of eastern European immigrants: “You can’t blame them, they want to work, they see the jobs, they come over and they do them.
“But as a country what we ought to be saying is no.”
Mr Cameron’s “no” was meant as a call for more welfare reform and better schools to equip our own young people for the jobs market.
Amen to those. But without controlling immigration there will be many fewer vacancies for them to step into.
So he should direct his “no” to Brussels.
He should dare to say that a million young unemployed amounts to an “exceptional circumstance” of the kind that entitles Britain, even under EU rules, to limit immigration by Romanians and Bulgarians.
If Brussels will not accept that and takes Britain to court to enforce free movement, well wouldn’t that be yet another excellent reason to pull out of the EU?
Britain has a skyrocketing population as it is, with much of the increase due to high birth rates among recent arrivals. Large parts of the country are full to the gunwales.
So acute is our housing crisis that young adults in good jobs have no prospect of home ownership and face seeing their money leak away in rent for decades to come. This is no time to be making their predicament worse by importing yet more people.
See on www.express.co.uk