The weeks leading up to 2014 saw British newspapers full of stories about Romania and Bulgaria, places that the same newspapers would usually dismiss as ‘little’ countries that aren’t worth bothering about. So why the sudden interest? Because on January 1st 2014, Romanians and Bulgarians became eligible to work in the UK (and the rest of the European Union) without needing to apply for a work permit. Newspapers like The Daily Mail were suddenly filled with horror stories warning that 1 million Romanians would be arriving at Luton airport, all ready to take jobs from British people and claim unemployment benefits (possibly at the same time).
And when the day arrived…nothing happened. One website reported that only one Romanian had arrived at Luton airport for the entire day. The streets of London were not ‘flooded’ or ‘overwhelmed’ with Bulgarians looking for work, or snatching babies, or anything that the press suggested would happen. In fact, things were exactly the same as the last time this happened – when Poles, Czechs, and Slovakians became eligible to work in the UK. The same thing happens every time a new nationality from Eastern Europe joins the EU, and it seems that none of the newspapers ever learn their lesson.
In actual fact, this scapegoating of Eastern Europeans is a purposeful tactic by the media and the big corporations whose interests they serve. Blaming foreigners – especially those from countries that few Britons have ever visited – is an easy way to turn people’s attentions from the real issues at work in the UK economy today. Ever since the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government came to power, Britain has seen massive unemployment, steep reductions in social security and other government benefits that allow the poorest people to stay afloat, rumours of an eventual privatization of the health service, and the general movement of wealth from the poorest people to those at the very top.
The worst aspect of these stories about Romanians and Bulgarians is the sheer hypocrisy of them. The newspapers blame immigration on ‘left-wing’ politicians, diversity, and multiculturalism. In truth, mass immigration is encouraged by large businesses and corporations, of the kind that own the very newspapers that complain about it! Rupert Murdoch’s London offices are probably not being cleaned by a British worker, but one from Poland or Lithuania – who do the job for less. With a long, although now faltering, history of unionization, British workers would demand higher pay and better conditions, which would eat into profits – while a new immigrant from Latvia or Hungary does not have the confidence or the bargaining position to ask for the same.
Ultimately, mass immigration from poorer EU countries is good for the elites of British society, allowing them to keep unemployment high and wages low – the perfect opportunity to increase profits while taking money and opportunities away from the poor. Of course, they can’t say that openly, it wouldn’t be very good PR. So instead, we see smear campaigns against new immigrants who are simply trying to earn the best living they can. The corporations and the newspapers need to convince the average British person to blame immigrants for the poor state of the UK economy, rather than the politicians and CEOs – and unfortunately, as we’ve seen so many times before, it appears that many British people believe them.
Article prepared by John Wish