Labour opened up the UK to millions of ‘A8’ nationals when they joined the EU in 2004, but imposed restrictions on ‘A2’ citizens from Bulgaria and Romania in 2007.
Following Labour leader Ed Miliband’s criticism of Blair’s EU immigration policy, the former PM has spoken out saying that he does not regret the decision to lift border controls for Eastern European immigrants.
Tony Blair, who introduced the Domestic Worker’s Concession, international student initiative and expended the Work Permit Scheme, said that Polish immigrants did “good work in our country” and “most sensible people” appreciated the contribution they made to Britain.
He spoke out after the current Labour leader described the relaxation of immigration controls in 2004 as a “mistake” that had undermined living standards for some working-class households.
Over the past decade, more than 700,000 (some estimate over 1 million) Eastern Europeans have moved to Britain for work — far more than the 15,000 who were officially predicted to arrive each year.
Mr Blair said illegal immigration rather than a change in policy should be the target of action. Asked whether he had made a mistake in relaxing controls for Eastern Europeans, he said: “In some ways, I don’t regret it because the Polish community and other communities from Eastern Europe do good work in our country. I’m happy with them, [but] I understand there’s a very marked sensitivity around that.
“I think most sensible people in Britain can see immigrants have made a great contribution to our country.”
In a BBC interview, Mr Blair also indicated that he would like to return to a high-profile “public role” and said that he could have continued as Prime Minister. “I have always said I am a public service person first,” he said. “I would have been happy to carry on as prime minister. I would have been happy taking the job as president of the EU.”
Following the mass influx of Eastern Europeans, the Labour Government started to restrict non-EU migration from countries such as India and The Philippines.
The Blair student initiative, which helped make the UK the second most popular destination for international students, was forgotten during Gordon Brown’s period in office when Tier 4 visa restrictions started to be imposed.
The Labour Government underestimated the impact of the EU expansion and the fact that most other European countries imposed 7 year restrictions on A8 nations such as Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.
However, when A2 accession countries, Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, working restrictions were imposed by the UK and others until 2014.
Labour are trying to ‘out tough’ the Conservatives on immigration, which will not be easy when the government has just introduced a whole raft of new regulations, including Rules to restrict appeals against refusals of family visit visas.
Immigration Appeals (Family Visitor) Regulations set out who qualifies for a full right of appeal against refusal of a visa to visit family in the UK.
New family migration rules will come into effect from 9 July 2012. From 9 July 2012, if you want to marry a foreigner (non-EEA European Economic Area nationality) and live in the UK together you must earn £18,600.
Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians. For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org