Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Mark Ellse: In parts of Britain you have to speak Polish to get a job. (And other dubious benefits of the EU)


It’s a little out of the way but Boston in Lincolnshire is worth a visit. I wanted to see the parish church, the Stump, with its huge tower visible for miles around. It was worth, too, driving along some of the small roads that lead to the Wash, to see how low and flat the land lies and how intensively it is farmed. The agriculture relies on manpower not primarily for its production but more for its harvesting and, even more importantly, for the associated food processing in factories around Boston.

Walking though the town, one is quickly aware that the proportion of the population coming from eastern Europe far exceeds the 2011 census figure of 11 per cent. The main language that one hears walking round the streets is Polish. A local primary school has more than 60 per cent of its pupils from migrant backgrounds and there are plenty of local shops in which absolutely all the labelling is in Polish.

The Poles are a cheerful lot and will happily tell you, in broken English, why they are there. ‘In Poland no job. Here I have job in the food factory, I have money and a house for my family. Of course the work is not good but I am learning English and when my English is better then I will move away from Boston and get a job somewhere else in England.’ That man clearly has a desire for social mobility.

One can imagine what it is like in the factories. A local councillor was approached by a Latvian woman. She wanted him to take up for her a case of racial discrimination. Her application to a food processing factory had been turned down…because she didn’t speak Polish! It’s a hard world.

We all know why immigration continues unabated. Perhaps, the largest factor is that wage and benefit rates are maintained artificially well above market rates. Why on earth should one be out of work in Poland, or work for £2 per hour, when one can get £6.70 per hour here plus a range of other benefits? The problem will be worse in April when the minimum wage goes up to £7.50. What on earth will it be like with the ‘National Living Wage’ of £9 per hour?

This self-inflicted promotion of immigration has obvious consequences for the UK but there is also another side to it. A Bulgarian contact wrote to me a couple of days ago.

I never expected that Bulgaria’s EU membership would be such a threat for the country. We have no people. Horrible shortage of labour force regardless of the skills. The good workers go to the UK, so the chances for the economy here to pick up are very low – no workers, no consumers!

It makes one wonder which countries do benefit from the EU.

I am reminded me of a plea for help that came from the parents of a Bulgarian child I taught. The parents ran a transport company in Bulgaria. They had seen a Iveco truck advertised by a UK company on a German website. The company had a Polish owner. After some negotiations with the Swedish manager a price was agreed. A deposit of €6000 was paid and arrangements were made to pick the truck up from its supposed location near Dublin airport. Needless to say, when the driver arrived there was no sign of the truck.

On behalf of the parents I spoke to the police whose automatic response was to fob me off. ‘Oh, it doesn’t sound as though it’s anything to do with us. It’s more of a civil matter.’ In fact, the small claims court will only deal with UK claims and any sort of escalation above that would cost more than the amount one might recover.

It turns out, of course, that there is a process for informing the police about international fraud, though they warn that they do not take action in every case. I completed the appropriate form and that’s the last I heard of it. I suppose one can understand it. After all, which sane policeman is going to try to take up the case of a defrauded Bulgarian, who buys an Italian truck supposedly in Ireland but advertised in Germany, from a UK company managed by a Swede but owned by a Pole? What a tribute to European integration.

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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