Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Eastern European migrants' boost to British economy was 'insignificant', says thinktank

A claim that mass immigration from Eastern Europe gave a huge boost to Britain’s economy was rubbished last night in a groundbreaking report.

The wave of migrants who came to the UK from Poland and other former Communist states had an 'insignificant' impact on growth, according to a respected economic think tank. In just five years after EU expansion in 2004, they pushed up Britain’s population by 700,000 - a rise of more than one per cent. However, they added a third of that - just 0.38 per cent - to Britain’s economic output over the same period, the National Institute for Economic and Social Research said.

The report prompted a renewed attack on Labour's 'open door' migration policy which heaped pressure on public services and housing.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the MigrationWatch think tank said: 'This blows out of the water many of the arguments that the immigration lobby have been making for years. 'We now find that the contribution of workers from Eastern Europe to our GDP was trivial, much less than their addition to our population.' He added: 'This is the last nail in the coffin of Labour’s immigration policy.'

Successive Labour Home Secretaries, as well as former PM Tony Blair, defended immigration by citing the supposed economic benefits of new arrivals. A Home Office-commissioned report in 2007 claimed immigration added £6billion to the economy during the previous calendar year.

But today's report found they added just £4.91bn to Gross Domestic Product over the entire five years from 2004.

The researchers also said the patterns of migration established over the past seven years were 'likely to prove permanent'.

Left-wing supporters of mass migration have pointed to the dip in Eastern European arrivals seen during the recession as evidence many of those migrants who came to Britain would return home when work dried up.

It was also claimed Polish and other Eastern European workers would try to find jobs in Germany and other countries who, from yesterday, were forced to abandon temporary restrictions on workers from A8 contries- Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

But one of the report’s authors, Dawn Holland, said the lifting of restrictions by other EU countries would make little difference. She said: 'Lifting barriers in Germany may divert some Polish and other workers away from the UK,' she says, 'especially given the relative strength of the German economy.' 'But as the existence of support networks for new migrants is one of the most important factors, much of the shift in migrants since 2004 is likely to prove permanent.'

The report found that between 2004 and 2009 around 1.5million Eastern Europeans came to Britain from the eight new EU states. The report estimated around 700,000 stayed, including half a million from Poland alone. Over the same period Britain's GDP grew by £98bn - of which 5 per cent can be attributed to immigration, the NIESR said. By contrast, it found Germany's growth fell by as little as 0.1per cent as a result of imposing curbs on new arrivals.

Tory immigration minister Damian Green this year vowed not to repeat the 'mistake' of not implementing the transitional controls, which were limited to seven years and expired yesterday.

The Labour government allowed full access to Britain’s job market, and only imposed restrictions on benefits. These also expired yesterday - raising fears of a new rush of benefits tourists.

A House of Lords report on immigration in 2008 found the economic benefits of immigration were 'small and close to zero'.

Mr Green commented: 'While immigration can being benefits, it can strain public services, infrastructure and community cohesion unless it is properly controlled. 'That is why, as well as reducing net migration to the tens of thousands, the government will introduce transitional controls for new EU member states as a matter of course.'


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