Sentiment in Britain about leaving the European Union is now at about 50%.
During her recent visit to London, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was sufficiently alarmed about this trend to plead with British Prime Minister David Cameron to ensure that Britain remained in the European Union. If the economic situation was not a sufficient irritant, the immigration factor is now about to exacerbate the problem.
One of the EU's guiding principles is the free movement of capital and labor, meaning that any national of a EU country is free to reside and work in another EU country. This was intended to bind the union together, as well as allow labor to move to countries where a demand existed. It was not a principle that envisaged recession and severe unemployment in most countries of the Union.
When the EU expanded to Eastern Europe, the British government estimated that at most 20,000 nationals of the new members would come to live in Great Britain.
This number was a vast underestimate. There are hundreds of thousands of Poles in Britain and Britain takes in 40,000 Romanians and Bulgarians annually. The Romanians and Bulgarians entering are, officially, those who have proven that a job awaits them in Britain. This is the situation up to now, when there were still quota restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian immigration.
Starting December 2013, these temporary restrictions will be lifted and based on the Polish precedent, Britain fears that it will be swamped by immigrants from these countries. Britain would run afoul of European law were it to continue the restrictions.
Many Bulgarians and Romanians are already in the United Kingdom illegally working in the black economy.
The United Kingdom Independence Party, that favors a British withdrawal from the European Union, is warning about 1.5 million job seekers who will compound Britain's 8.4% unemployment and prevent young British citizens from getting their original foothold on the employment ladder.
The opposition British Labour Party, that was responsible for the previous immigration fiasco and paid electorally for it, has told the government that they would back a policy to extend the quotas on Romania and Bulgaria. The government, via Home Secretary Theresa May, has already announced that it could not legally do so, but would seek to limit access to benefits in the hope of discouraging some of the immigrants. This will encounter resistance from Brussels which believes in equalizing conditions.
However with British salaries more than 4 times as high as Romanian or Bulgarian ones, the pull factor to Britain should still prove irresistible.