Transitional controls for citizens of Romania and Bulgaria (who joined the EU in 2007) expire at the end of this year, giving the combined population of 27 million people unrestricted rights to work in the UK and seven other EU countries.
In his speech Mr Turner blamed out of date EU rules and the previous Government for uncontrolled immigration which led to 2.2m people – twice the population of Birmingham – coming to the UK between 1997 and 2010, saying ‘no wonder we had a crisis’. He pointed out the impact that such large numbers have on housing supply and other infrastructure.
Paying tribute to the role that immigrants have played in our history and the contribution many continue to make to society, he gave examples of the bravery of the Polish crew of the ORP Blyskawiska, (the warship that saved Cowes in 1942) and the many foreign born nurses and doctors working in the NHS. However, he told MPs in Westminster Hall that the free movement of people across the EU is no longer appropriate or acceptable.
He concluded his speech by asking the Immigration Minister Mark Harper MP to introduce legislation to ‘restore our country’s sovereignty’, echoing calls made in a recent report from the cross-party European Scrutiny Committee which received unanimous support.
Mr Turner, said in the debate:
“The Government must try to deal with the concerns of many British people and, indeed, many settled and integrated migrant communities—those who recognise that we simply cannot retain an open-door policy for all current EU citizens. We need a more nuanced policy that is controlled by our elected Government and that works in the interests of the British nation.”
“Britain simply cannot provide a better life for everyone who wants to come here. We do not have the infrastructure or jobs to do that.”
Mr Harper, who responded to the debate on behalf of the Government said:
“We have made a difference, which my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight put his finger on when he talked about our immigration policy, our welfare policy and our education and training policy. The difference is in the combination of the three—a tougher immigration policy; a tougher welfare policy that encourages people to work and contribute; and an increase in the number of apprenticeships and more rigour in schools.”
Speaking after the debate Mr Turner commented:
“The Government has indeed made progress in addressing some of the concerns I raised about the impact of uncontrolled immigration; that is welcome. However they can’t control immigration from within the EU; we need to take back control of our borders. Our Government should decide which EU citizens are allowed to live in the UK, not the Treaty of Rome which we signed in 1973. Times have changed, circumstances have changed; the law needs to change to take account of that.”