At the beginning of this year, transitional controls on the migration of Bulgarians and Romanians within the European Union were lifted. At the time, I argued that free marketeers should welcome Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), whose members are not fans of the E.U.'s free movement policy, claimed that with transitional controls lifted, the crime rate would increase and between 350,000 and 400,000 Romanians will come to the U.K.
In fact, in the three months since the remaining transition controls were lifted there was a 3,000-person decrease in the number of Bulgarians and Romanians living in the U.K. While there has been an 18.5 percent increase in the number of Bulgarians and Romanians living in the U.K. compared to this time last year, Alan Travis points out that there will be 60,000 fewer Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the U.K. after the closure of an agricultural workers scheme.
One likely reason that there has not been a massive influx is that Bulgarians and Romanians have had the freedom to move to the U.K. since 2007; it is only the labour market that they did not have access to until earlier this year.
Scott Blinder, the director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said in January 2013 that "We just don't know" how many Bulgarians and Romanians would come to the U.K. in the wake of the change. Interestingly, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said something similar in a speech in September 2013:
And from the 1st of January next year, the risks increase massively.
The seven year period is up and nearly 30 million of the good people of Bulgaria and Romania have open access to our country, our welfare system our jobs market.
How many will take advantage of that no one knows.
The Home Office don't have any idea at all. The previous estimate was 13,000 in total. Migration Watch thinks 50,000 a year. It could be many times that.
Never mind that recent immigrants to the U.K. are net contributors to the British public finances. It is revealing that Farage accepts that he can't predict migration patterns.
Markets are much better than politicians at determining what the price and supply of labour should be. Policy makers should accept that they don't have nearly enough knowledge to manage immigration on that level, get out of the way, and let markets do their thing.
Watch Reason's recent debate on whether the U.S. should open its borders below: