The Conservative Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has warned that a change in law coming at the end of this year could see the floodgates opened to thousands of migrants from Bulgaria and Romania and fears that this could have a devastating effect on the current UK housing shortage.
Both Bulgaria and Romania became full EU members on 1 January 2007; however, several existing members sought a temporary restriction meaning that workers from both countries must apply for a work permit before migrating into their territories.
The UK was one such country, alongside France, Spain, Germany and the Benelux countries.
However, the law permitting the restriction was only temporary and expires at the end of 2013. After this time the overriding principle of EU law, freedom of movement, will apply to all Bulgarian and Romanian citizens. EU law prohibits the temporary ban on migration from being extended. It is thought the UK will lift the ban in December 2013.
Mr Pickles believes that the current crisis in social housing will be exacerbated by the arrival of a fresh wave of migrants from Eastern Europe.
“Given that we’ve got a housing shortage, any influx from Romania and Bulgaria is going to cause problems – it’s going to cause problems, not just in terms of the housing market but also on social housing markets,” he told Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme.
However, despite the warning, he accepted that the Government had no firm projections on the numbers of migrants expected to head to the UK and said that he had had no discussion with the Home Office on the matter.
The UK had previously looked into the possibility of extending the ban on migration from Bulgaria and Romania but was told that any extension would contravene EU law.
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