Thursday, January 31, 2013

FT: Cameron’s special leave to Romania

By Robert Shrimsley
A little reverse psychology might dissuade immigrants from embarking

Perhaps the greatest news story of the week – one tarnished only by the probability of its not being entirely true – was the notion that the UK government may commission television advertisements to deter Bulgarians and Romanians from emigrating to Britain when EU restrictions on their right to work expire next year. These “Britain ain’t booming” ads would show the downside of life in the UK, presumably juxtaposed with shots of Venetian canals, Parisian cafés and German labour statistics.

Of course it would be vital to ensure the film is not mixed up with ones made for Chinese investors presumably boasting about Britain’s unrivalled financial expertise and infrastructure – “and a new high-speed train line by 2033!!”.
There may be scope for some basic factual information showing the UK is, in terms of benefits, a less attractive destination than some in Sofia or Bucharest might imagine. But for nations with an average gross domestic product per capita less than 40 per cent of the UK’s, a desire to come here is rational. So if we go down this route of dissuasion, a little reverse psychology might be better. Perhaps an open letter from David Cameron, UK prime minister:

It is an immense pleasure to address your great people. Actually, I was at school with several of your princes and they were first-class chaps. As I sit here on a dull, wet Wednesday in Westminster, my mind flies back to the happy evenings I spent watching Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in The Balkan Trilogy, a story of a young English couple who find love and flee Britain for a better life in Romania. I’ve often thought of doing the same myself but, like most Brits, I’m hopeless with languages and Samantha says they don’t yet have a Smythson in Bucharest. Quite a business opportunity for an enterprising local, I’d have thought, and better-paid than cabbage-picking for the National Farmers Union.

I know some of you are thinking of emigrating to Britain and I want to extend a warm welcome and hope you will be able to make the long journey. Please do not be deterred by the third-world infrastructure you experience at Heathrow or wherever your easyJet flight lands. It’s true our border-control staff can be surly and our processes slow but no one has had to wait in the arrivals hall for more than three weeks and we will get a water dispenser by 2018.

Obviously, accommodation can be pricey. Even a room in a bedsit could cost £100 a week but you can get them for a lot less if you don’t care about smoke alarms. And don’t worry about food prices. Our supermarkets sell cheap burgers, some of which have been tested and found to have traces of beef.

Like you we have a rich and proud history. England cannot boast a Vlad the Impaler, but we do have Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious welfare slasher. Please don’t be scared of him; he is actually perfectly nice in the flesh and not at all the kind of man you would expect to be cutting housing entitlements. Still, things are tough: I no longer receive any benefits to help raise my children. But fear not; we may be rolling back the welfare state but we still have the rough sleepers initiative.

And don’t forget our National Health Service, the envy of the world and the centrepiece of our Olympics opening ceremony. Don’t be put off by news that some of our hospitals are closing because they have run out of money. We’ve made great strides in reducing deaths through infections picked up in our hospitals; many elderly people are now treated with care and compassion and there has been no repeat of theAlder Hey organ theft scandal.

I know you will be worried about the frosty welcome from the local community. It can often be violent but no worse than you experienced under Ceausescu or Zhivkov. I am sending you some copies of the Daily Mail to help you acclimatise.

But as our friends the Poles discovered, the British can tolerate anything except hard-working people who come over here to do the low-paid jobs we can’t be bothered to do ourselves. You can see how an indigenous population would resent having work being stolen from tradesmen by low tricks like turning up when you say you are going to, and working to a decent standard.

Finally, don’t fret that we may suddenly leave the EU or renegotiate our membership and deport the lot of you. We would love to do this but I’ve no reason to believe it will actually happen. So come on over and take a chance on Britain.

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