20 March 2013

'No one knows' UK immigration numbers admits minister

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Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said 'nobody really knows' how many people will move to the UK when European Union restrictions are relaxed at the end of the year.

UK visa

Eric Pickles has said 'nobody knows' how many people will move to the UK when Bulgaria and Romania join the EU later this year.

As of 1 January, 2014, Bulgaria and Romania will both accede to the EU and gain access to the Union's freedom of movement directive, meaning all citizens will be able to move to Britain with the need for a UK visa.

The last time a similar situation happened - when Poland, Latvia and Lithuania acceded in 2004 - almost 20 times as many people as the then-Labour government predicted chose to move to the UK.

The prospect of another spike in UK immigration, just when figures are beginning to fall, has fuelled an ongoing debate as to how the UK can limit any potential burden placed on social services should a fresh influx occur.

The Labour Party's reputation has suffered since leaving office and Labour Leader Ed Milliband has apologised for his party's stance several times. The Conservative Party are clearly extremely concerned with repeating their predecessor's mistakes with Mr Pickles refusing to release his department's predictions earlier this year.

However, the minister has been pushed to release figures by critics across the political spectrum and this week commented on the figures publishes on his department's website by saying there was no real way to make accurate predictions.

"I know it's a bloody mistake to tell the truth but... the truth is nobody really knows," Mr Pickles told journalists at a Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch in Westminister.

"So all the Government can do is to just be careful about the pull factors that might range from the health service, through housing, through benefits within the law to try and ensure there isn't an extra attraction to come here.

"There is no secret formula that is too horrible to bring out, there is no secret calculation that we are trying to hide from the world because, indeed the calculation has been on my website undisturbed for the best part of two year and there are other documents that we will be publishing in due course."

Despite the Government's evident reluctance to commit the same mistakes as the Labour Party on UK immigration policy, the predictions published on Mr Pickle's department's website state that it predicts 13,000 - 4,613 Bulgarians and 8,155 Romanians - will move to the Uk when their accession is complete.


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