The Justice Secretary Michael Gove has warned of the dangers of staying in an ever expanding European Union (EU). Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey joining the EU over the next few years would open the door to 88 million people, all eligible to come to the UK for treatment on the NHS and for a British education for their children, he said.
On January 1, 2014, 27 million Romanians and Bulgarians gained the right to live and work freely in Britain. Those warning that tens of thousands would come were accused of “inflammatory rhetoric”, yet their predictions proved correct. Today, the Government has no clear figures on how many people are coming to the UK from Europe as the official figure is an estimate, but what is clear is that immigration is at an all time high.
But far from dealing with the problem of unregulated immigration, membership of the EU guarantees that over the next few years, Britain will be opened up to the citizens of at least five more countries: Turkey and the Baltic nations.
“When Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey join the EU, another 88 million people will soon be eligible for NHS care and school places for their children,” Mr Gove has written in an article for the Daily Mail.
“And what will even more immigration from the EU mean for access to housing across the UK? How many more homes will we need and how many more green acres will go? What will it mean for jobs and wages?
“Can we maintain the apprenticeships we need, safeguard the jobs of the future and ensure people can maintain a decent standard of living, when up to 88 million people from nations much poorer than our own will have the right to live and work here?
“As we introduce the National Living Wage, the pull of the UK could prove irresistible.
“Even for those with jobs in Albania, average incomes are just one seventh of those in the UK. The figure for Serbia is less than one fifth.”
And there are further problems with the accession of the Balkan countries that go beyond merely numbers. The EU’s free movement policy assumes that all European member states enjoy parity not only economically, but socially too. But as Gove points out, criminality and corruption are rife in Eastern Europe in a way that Western Europe just doesn’t yet experience.
He cites Home Secretary Theresa May, who backs the remain campaign but nevertheless warned this week: “The states now negotiating to join the EU include Albania, Serbia and Turkey — countries with poor populations and serious problems with organised crime, corruption, and sometimes even terrorism.
‘We have to ask ourselves, is it really right that the EU should just continue to expand, conferring upon all new member states all the rights of membership?
“Do we really think now is the time to contemplate a land border between the EU and countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria?”
Mr. Gove agrees: “The Home Secretary’s worries are spot on. As Justice Secretary, I am well aware that there are around 10,000 foreign criminals in our jails — and one in 20 of those is Albanian.
“Of all the prisoners in our jails who come from European countries, 10 per cent come from Albania — yet Albania comprises less than half of one per cent of the overall population of Europe.
“Those prisoners currently cost the British taxpayer almost £18 million a year to keep in custody. And that’s before Albanian citizens even have the right to move to the UK!
“The Home Secretary knows the problem is very far from diminishing. Already this year we’ve seen 20 gangsters from Albania convicted of running a brutal drugs ring in Manchester.”
He added: “They are serious criminals who came here on forged Italian and Greek documents. European laws allow anyone with ID cards from EU countries — not even full passports — to enter the UK.
“Italy’s cardboard documents are a particular favourite with criminals because they can be so easily forged.
“Last year, there was a 70 per cent increase in the number of people trying to get into Britain with fraudulent European papers.
“And in the vanguard were Albanian criminals using fake Greek and Italian ID papers.”
And he concurs with May on Turkey, saying: “How can it possibly be sensible to allow Turkey, in its current straits, and with Islamic State on its border, to become a full member of the EU?
“There has to be a better way for Britain to protect our vital interests.
Gove, a self-proclaimed “internationalist” is keen to stress that his arguments are not isolationist — he is not proposing to stop immigration altogether and pull up the drawbridge.
“I support controlled migration — I believe Britain is strengthened by new people, new ideas and new cultures. But you can have too much of a good thing.”
Ultimately, his arguments are about British sovereignty: “The truth is that we cannot rely on the European Union to operate in our interests,” he says.
“The failure of the Government’s recent renegotiation of our membership to bring back any powers over immigration demonstrated that other EU nations and the Brussels elite just aren’t interested in reforming Europe.
“What they are determined to do is deepen and widen their political union. And because our veto was watered down in the recent negotiations, the countries of the eurozone now have the power to get their way, unimpeded, on a slew of European issues.
“We can no longer prevent them imposing their will on us.
“The only way we can be certain to prevent a future UK government agreeing to the Albanian Option, and stop our borders being lowered to allow millions more to be admitted, is to take back control and leave the European Union.”