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EU Economics

Poland asking workers to come home is shocking indictment of EU membership says Ross Clark

NOT unreasonably the debate over mass migration has concentrated on its effects on Britain: overloaded public services, suppressed wages for the low-paid and so on.

Poland is asking workers to return home
But we should spare a thought for the Eastern ­European countries from which people are migrating. Much as the EU would like us to think otherwise, free movement of labour has not been such a great thing for Poland where the government has launched a campaign trying to help workers to return. While we suffer from the effects of unplanned population growth, in many parts of ­Eastern Europe they have the opposite problem: a declining population and brain drain of talent as able, productive workers are lured abroad.

Since Poland joined the EU in 2004 more than two million of its citizens flocked westwards to take advantage of higher wages and greater job opportunities. Of these, 650,000 came to Britain. It isn’t hard to see their motivation.In 2015 the average monthly wage in Poland was the equivalent of 705 euros. In Britain it was 2,253 euros. What was predicted by many to be a short-term shift in population has turned into a long-term brain drain. If anything the loss of population from Poland is accelerating. In 2013 alone 500,000 Poles emigrated.

Lettuce pickersALAMY

Many low-skilled workers have left Poland for better prospects in the EU


Poland is in a more dramatic version of the cycle of decline in which Britain found itself during the 1970s when we lost a net half a million residents over several years. As people leave, the economy is suppressed which encourages yet more people to up sticks and seek better opportunities abroad.And of course it tends to be the most entrepreneurial people who leave, while more conservative-minded workers stay behind. Job-creating businesses which might have been set up in Warsaw or Krakow end up being established in London or Berlin.

True, many Polish workers send some earnings home which gives a small boost to the Polish economy. But that is a poor substitute for the wealth which would have been created had more entrepreneurial citizens stayed.

EU membership ought to have been a boon for Poland, a country which in 2004 was still recovering from the dead years of communism. Access to Western European markets ought to have supercharged that recovery.

Initially that is what seemed to happen. Between 1992-2004 the Polish economy more than doubled in size from just under $100billion to $250billion, according to the World Bank. Between 2004 and 2008 it doubled again to peak at $500billion. But since then Polish GDP has flatlined.

EU accession of former Soviet bloc countries has been horribly mismanaged

Of course the global recession of 2008/09 affected all economies yet for the Polish economy to be a little smaller in 2015 than it was in 2008 is a shocking indictment of EU membership. The EU has managed to turn a high-growth economy into a stagnant one.EU accession of former Soviet bloc countries has been horribly mismanaged. The aim should have been to raise the GDP per capita of Eastern European countries to something approaching that of Western European countries – and then to remove barriers to the free movement of people.

If wages in Poland were similar to those in Britain we wouldn’t have a problem with migration because the flow of people would be more balanced. No one bothers about open migration between Britain and France or Germany because the numbers roughly cancel each other out.

Home Office signGETTY

Britain allowed Polish migrants free movement from day one


Instead the doors were thrown open far too early. The EU allowed Western European countries a period of seven years before they were obliged to accept migrant workers from Eastern Europe. But a few – Britain included – allowed free movement from day one.Worse, the EU has forced other member states to allow Eastern Europeans full access to their welfare systems from the moment they arrive. It has become too easy for Poles, Latvians and so on to flee their countries.

If they land a job in Britain they will likely treble their pay. If it goes wrong and they can’t find a job it is still likely that they will be on a higher income than if they had stayed at home.

How much better for both Britain and Poland if we’d opened up our markets to Eastern Europe but stuck to a system of work permits. We could have boosted wealth across Europe while avoiding the problems associated with the mass movement of people.

We wouldn’t have had surgeries overflowing and our housing stock unable to cope. Poland wouldn’t have found itself losing its workforce. There would have been an incentive for businesses to set up in Poland, rather than Western Europe.Unfortunately the EU’s unelected leaders treated free movement as an ideology which must be observed no matter what the consequences. Poor Poland and her neighbours have already suffered enough from one ideology: communism.

The last thing they needed was another set of inflexible beliefs foisted upon them. Hopefully Britain’s exit will jolt the EU into a pragmatic way of doing things which promotes trade and the opportunity of people to travel and work abroad but which recognises that over-rapid liberalisation of free movement has caused enormous harm.

http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/702908/poland-ask-workers-come-home-shocking-eu-membership-migration

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