Government scaremongering about an imminent influx of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants could jeopardise David Cameron’s attempt to renegotiate a new relationship with Europe, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister warned today.
Nikolai Mladenov said the way in which the debate about Bulgarians coming to live and work in Britain was going it would “definitely dampen the enthusiasm” for co-operation between the two countries.
Under EU rules citizens of both countries will gain full free movement of labour rights to live and work in the UK by the end of December 2013.
But Mr Mladenov suggested the row over immigration could have other implications with Mr Cameron losing the backing of Eastern European countries to secure opt-outs from areas of EU law.
He said he did not believe Britain should have “some sort of a pick and choose relationship with Europe” but had to be firmly engaged.
“I think everyone needs to understand that it is for the best benefit of all us that we stick together in Europe on the basis of the treaty commitments that we have and we collectively see how to address the effects of the economic crisis that we’re all suffering,” he said.
Mr Mladenov also denied that large numbers of Bulgarians would chose to travel to Britain when the restrictions are lifted suggesting they would rather travel to Germany, Spain and Italy, where the country has stronger business links.
“I do not expect the UK to be overwhelmed by a wave of our nationals coming over seeking employment for a number of reasons.” He said, “When we look at the experience of other countries over the last seven years, this has not happened and there is no reason to believe that this would happen in the UK in the January of next year.”
The Romanian ambassador to the UK Dr Ion Jinga also said that fears that many Romanians would come to the UK was a “false problem”.
“Romanians' immigration pattern is not towards the UK but towards Spain, Italy and France, because of the language proximity,” he said.
In an interview the former Prime Minister Tony Blair also criticised Mr Cameron’s plans for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership saying it was “an odd way of solving things”.
He added that Mr Cameron might find it difficult to get agreement for all other European leaders for change.
“If you’re saying this is about Britain’s relationship with Europe as one vs 26, you better make sure that they’re all lined up behind that.
“Because if they’re not, and any one of them say no, I can’t really believe David Cameron thinks it’s sensible to get out of Europe even if he doesn’t achieve all of that agenda.”