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UK Politics

Romanian PM: 'We will not rush to Britain'


Britain can “rest assured” that Romanians will not rush to Britain when access restrictions are lifted at the end of the year, the country's prime minister has said.

Writing in The Times newspaper, Victor Ponta said he was “rather perplexed” by the recent uproar regarding the “imminent Romanian invasion of the UK”.

The premier's comments come after migration campaigners claimed that as many as 250,000 Romanians and Bulgarians are set to arrive in Britain.

Temporary curbs were imposed on both countries in 2005 to protect the British labour market, but they expire at the end of December and cannot be extended.

Mr Ponta said: “Our people are, by far, our most valuable, cherished and significant resource. And we will do our utmost to keep them in the country.

“For all the work that is to be done in this country we need every brain and every pair of hands available.

“This is why Britain can rest assured: Romania needs its workers. They will not rush to Britain come January 1 2014. They will be busy developing their own country.”

The UK Government has been accused of stoking fears by refusing to provide its own estimate of the number of immigrants it expects to arrive from Romania and Bulgaria.

Mr Ponta said he wants Romania to cease being an “emigration country” and has set in motion policies aimed at stimulating growth.

Unemployment is below the EU average and public sector wages have returned to their pre-austerity level, he said.

In the past, Mr Ponta said, countries like Spain, Italy and France were the “most inspiring” destinations for Romanians looking for work abroad due to similarities in their languages.

“If the immigration process continues, which is highly unlikely, it will definitely not focus on the UK,” he said.

The prime minister added that the Prince of Wales “slipped away” to his country the day after the Queen's Jubilee celebrations - adding “Romania can't be that bad, can it?”

He said the country would be happy to welcome British people for a holiday in “the sleepy villages that Prince Charles loves so much” or for a “strong pint in the Old Town in Bucharest”.

Earlier, figures showed the number of issued entrepreneur visas - aimed at attracting investment to the UK from serious overseas businessmen and women - doubled last year.

A total of 462 of the visas were issued in 2012, compared with 199 the previous year, UK Border Agency (UKBA) figures obtained by international law firm Pinsent Masons showed.

Entrepreneur applicants - known as Tier 1 - must have access to not less than £200,000, or £50,000 from a UK regulated venture capital firm.

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, were released after ministers unveiled tougher rules aimed at clamping down on abuse of the entrepreneur method of entry.