11:38 Thursday 2nd January 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[A]NDIE HARPER: Our question that we’ve been posing to you this morning is, is it racist to have misgivings, if no more than that, about the possible influx of Romanian and Bulgarian workers into this country, now that restrictions have been lifted. In some quarters, people’s criticism has been described as racism. Let’s talk shall we to David Campbell Bannerman, formerly a member of UKIP, but now the Conservative MEP for the Eastern Region. He’s on a train, but hopefully we’ll be able to have a conversation with him. David, good morning to you. Good morning David.
DAVID CAMPBELL BANNERMAN: Hi Andie. Happy New Year.
ANDIE HARPER: Yes. Happy New Year to you David. Now do you think it’s fair to describe people who do have some objections, some misgivings about this possible influx of Bulgarians and Romanians, is it fair to call them racist?
DAVID CAMPBELL BANNERMAN: I don’t think it is fair to call them racists. If people are just saying they’re worried about the numbers, I don’t think that’s racist. We’re not saying .. I mean I only have concern about the numbers. It’s space not race. I think the issue is about control of immigration. Immigration’s a good thing. You’re not saying that people are bad people, you’re just saying that can we take the numbers. We’re now the most crowded nation in Europe officially, apart from Malta, and that’s where we’re heading. We’re four times as crowded as France even. So I think the issue is about numbers. Cambridge itself is very crowded now as we know. But that’s not racist to raise those concerns.
ANDIE HARPER: You know your way well around the workings of the EU. Is there anything that we could have done about it? Is there anything that we should have done about it, or do we just have to take it on the chin?
DAVID CAMPBELL BANNERMAN: Well unfortunately this is under EU law. Freedom of movement is an important right that the four freedoms under the EU, and actually in principle it’s a good thing to have freedom of movement. But actually what you need is controls. I’d like personally to see what we have in Switzerland, which is they have a lot of people come in to Switzerland. One in four people there are foreign. But actually they have the means to control numbers. And they’ve done that recently and cut back on the numbers through visas for long term stays. We need something like that, where you let people in .. as I say it’s a good thing, not a racist thing to control numbers. But you have to have some kind of measure of control, otherwise I think it does cause problems.
ANDIE HARPER: One of the questions which constantly is raised, people were talking to me about it over Christmas and we’ve had it mentioned today on our Facebook pages, why do they always come to this country? Why don’t they stop in France for instance? They pass through France, Germany, wherever, to come to the UK. Is it simply because of our benefit system? Because most people think it should be the same across Europe.
DAVID CAMPBELL BANNERMAN: Well our economy now of course is doing a lot better than the Eurozone, and particularly Spain which has been a source of travel for a lot of Romanians for example. So the economy is better, and our welfare system is far more generous. So I think that’s a big issue. But I think the underlying problem is I think we have to look at the whole model of the EU, where Romanians are paid one sixth of what people in Cambridgeshire are paid. And that means that actually you have huge incentives for big flows of people from Romania and Bulgaria to the UK. And I think that is a major problem. We need to sort it out, the actual legal framework, better. And I think that would be .. you know you keep the ability to come and move to the UK, but under controlled conditions.
ANDIE HARPER: And would another answer maybe to point out to people that it isn’t all milk and honey? Because so many people come from these countries. They think it’s going to be that much better here, and they lead miserable lives.
DAVID CAMPBELL BANNERMAN: Well of course you know you’ve got to think of the welfare of those coming to Britain. I don’t want to see people as we see in Peterborough living in sheds in desperate conditions. I think that’s really bad for everyone. And we want to treat people decently. And I think that’s why again why you need a better means of controlling immigration.
ANDIE HARPER: David, it’s been really good to talk to you. Thank you very much. We were losing our signal.
DAVID CAMPBELL BANNERMAN: Thanks.
ANDIE HARPER: Cheers. All the best. That’s David Campbell Bannerman, the Conservative MEP for the Eastern Region, formerly a UKIP MEP for the Eastern Region.