Beware UK of Bulgarian and Romanian invasion!
UKIP, the Lernaean Hydra of British politics*

UKIP (UK Independence Party) is one of the most controversial parties in the UK. One of the main topics it is dealing with is the EU and the “invasion” of Bulgarians and Romanians, once they get free access to the British labor market in 2014.

Every now and then there is a representative of the party that manages to make it into the news for his egocentric behavior. There was the guy who had a photo in Facebook where he is making the Nazi salute; there was the guy who said that each city should have special holding cells for illegal immigrants; there was also the guy who called women "sluts" and some other similar stories.

There are a couple of UKIP societies in different universities across England. Interestingly enough, one of them is at the University of the West of England which is situated in Bristol – the first refugee city in the UK. After listening to - for almost a year now - how the Romanians and my fellow Bulgarians will steal everyone’s jobs, I just had to meet the president of the society, in order to better understand UKIP’s views.

Marc Hale is studying History at UWE and started paying more attention to the politics a year ago. He then realized there was no UKIP society in the university, so he spoke with the chairman of the party for Bristol, who was fascinated by the idea. During the Fresher’s Fair they received 37 signatures.

I was more than happy that Marc actually turned up to the meeting, because I have been trying to talk to a representative of the party since February. They all seem quite busy, though.

However, Marc assured me that Phil Collins - one of the people who refused to talk with me, because as he put it, “It’s not good for me to talk about Bulgarians and Romanians,” is no longer a member of the party. He was the chair of the Bristol branch, but he was made redundant after he spoke in front of VICE and explained that foreigners should be locked in holding cells. “He has views that don’t belong to any party” said Marc, and pointed out that such statements are among the reasons why UKIP has certain reputation and that they should not be viewed as representatives for the whole party. Moreover, Bloom, the MEP who called women “sluts” will seat as an independent in the European Parliament until the end of his mandate.

The Flooding: “Don’t trust the media!”

Marc knows that the rumors about how many Bulgarians and Romanians will move to the UK in 2014 are too exaggerated. The English press often quoted the number of 29 million as the amount of people that will come to the UK. The population of both countries is 27 million. He concluded that people should not trust the media.

“I don’t have any problems with people coming in, but we can’t handle it,” he added. His family tried to migrate to Australia, but in the end they couldn’t move, because they didn’t fulfill the necessary conditions. Such a politic of controlled migration is what UKIP is looking for.

Many believe that hardly anyone in Bulgaria and Romania would actually have known about the existence and therefore the lifting of the work restrictions in the UK, if it wasn’t for the aggressive UKIP campaign. Furthermore, it probably had the opposite effect and didn’t limit the possible newcomers, but actually increased their numbers. “Yeah.. I don’t know what his (Farage’s) aims are when talking about it so much, but I suppose he wanted to let people know about it, because they won’t hear it from somewhere else”, said Marc and added that democracy is everything UKIP wants, so even if the answer of the EU referendum is that the UK should not opt out, they will accept it, but people should have their say.

What will happen if the UK leaves the EU?

More than 50% of the British export is to countries within the EU. “We shall get global and not limit ourselves to the EU”, commented Marc and distinguished some potential partners in Africa and Asia and, above all, in the Commonwealth.

Students should be able to work

When it comes to the highly skilled migrants and students from the EU, who are already living in the UK, UKIP doesn’t have any plans to make them leave. Marc admitted that he didn’t know anything about the work restrictions Bulgarian and Romanian students are facing; the fact that they can work only 20 hours during term time and that some months ago the issuing of their work permits took around a year. “I didn’t know you have restrictions. You should be able to work to support yourselves. It doesn’t make any sense”, he said.

Main goals

The first priority for UKIP is an in-or-out referendum. Back in 1975, when Brits had to take the same decision, they chose to stay in the Union. “Our generation should have its say”.

UKIP also wants to increase the trade with the Commonwealth and to control the immigration from the EU.

The British rebate: “It’s not a good idea”

Marc wasn’t aware of the existence of the British rebate and agreed that people should hear more about it in the media. The British rebate is a rebate to the UK paid back to the Government by the European Union. It was negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984 because the UK couldn’t benefit a lot from the Common Agricultural Policy. This means that countries like Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria are still paying money out of solidarity to the UK. “It’s not a good idea”, said Marc.

Asked about his attitude towards the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe, Marc was rather skeptic about their role for the UK. However, the British membership in NATO, started after the Treaty of Brussels, signed by the UK and four other countries, is not an issue.

Smoking

One of the points in UKIP’s Statement of Principles is “End the ban on smoking in allocated rooms in public houses, clubs and hotels”. Mr Farage appears to be a smoker himself and hence the idea. Marc pointed out that this is more democratic than the current tough restrictions: “If you want to smoke, you should be able to do so without being victimized”.

Interestingly, this was one of the points that the Bulgarian Socialists Party also wanted to cover. However, the surprisingly strong public reaction there, in a society that is normally not used to be restricted, stopped the discussions about it and BSP gave up its idea and smoking is still prohibited in public places.

Unskilled Brits

Not only in the new EU countries there are unskilled workers. There are many Brits that have been unemployed for long time and live on benefits. Asked about how UKIP will cope with the unemployment, Marc said that it will create new work places thanks to the money it will save from the EU membership, but he thinks that the government can’t do much about the lack of motivation in the youth.

As this lack of motivation is obvious in the whole Union, the European Youth Guarantee will ensure that each young person who is left without a job or finishes his formal education will receive a high-quality offer for a job, an apprenticeship or a traineeship. After I assured Marc that the EU won’t make anyone, say from Greece, move to another country, say Germany, he agreed that “that’s great! I know the EU does good stuff”, but he just wants to see the democracy closer to the people.

*In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was an ancient serpent-like monster that possessed many heads and for each head cut off it grew two more. 

Edited by: Celeste Concari
Photo Credits: 
Jon Worth