"Bowing to tabloid headlines about Britain being swamped by immigrants, the Government has also started dropping stern hints about limiting workers from Romania and Bulgaria. Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister, declared yesterday: "There are any number of restrictions, controls and management tools that we can put on."
Stirring stuff, minister, but - like it or not - it is also cobblers. Within the first two years after Romanian and Bulgarian accession, the United Kingdom would be able to oblige citizens from those states to obtain work permits before they can work legally in a full-time job. And that, more or less, is it. If EU citizens are self-employed, or students, or claim on entry to be tourists, their access to Britain cannot be restricted at all.
Whitehall officials say stoutly that they have the power to impose limits on Romanian and Bulgarian "access to the UK labour market". But what does that actually mean? It basically means the Government could create some new offences, specially to cover Romanians and Bulgarians: working without a work permit, or employing someone from those two nations without a permit.
Given that we cannot close our borders, and average household incomes in Romania and Bulgaria are a tenth of those in Britain, it is not hard to guess one major outcome of creating such new offences: thousands will come anyway, but this time as criminals.
As a convinced free-marketeer, I must admit to moral qualms about welcoming people to live in my country, then turning them into criminals, just because they want to work for a living.
But if moral arguments do not work, try self-interest. Expanding Britain's black economy is not a good idea. It would be bad for the health of society. It would reduce tax revenues, and hurt British workers, too. As long as east Europeans are working legally, their broad pay and conditions can only fall so far. Once people are on the black, employers can treat them as near-slaves, putting far more pressure on legal workers."
According to The Guardian, however, the German government is made of sterner stuff (here):
"Germany is threatening to derail the planned entry of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU on January 1, forcing its postponement for a year as fears grow over Europe's capacity to absorb new members.
Yesterday Horst Köhler, the German president, urged the two countries to overcome clear deficits in their judicial systems and in the fight against corruption ahead of a final "monitoring" report by the European commission next month on their progress towards meeting the political criteria for entry.
Germany, along with Belgium, Denmark, France and Ireland, has so far failed to ratify the accession treaty for Bulgaria and Romania and Mr Köhler indicated it would wait until after the commission report on September 26 to start the parliamentary process. Ratification is due by December 31 at the latest."