Bulgarian and Romanian immigration worries soften

William JordanUS Elections Editor
May 16, 2014, 6:09 PM GMT+0

Fewer are now worried about Bulgarians and Romanians coming to Britain, and more support free movement within the EU

New numbers from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have indicated that the “wave” of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants, which some had predicted for the beginning of 2014, may not have come to pass. The figures find the number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK has fallen by 4,000 since January, when restrictions on workers from those countries coming into the UK were lifted, leading some to accuse those who warned of the immigration surge of “scaremongering”. However, as UKIP leader Nigel Farage was quick to point out, the numbers did show an increase of 29,000 Bulgarian and Romanian workers in the UK from a year ago. Others pointed out that the “wave” might still be on the way, even if it did not take place in the first three months of this year.

New YouGov research finds that among the British public fears over Bulgarians and Romanians being able to come to Britain have waned since December.

Before January, 49% sided with the view that the negative effects of these immigrants having the right to come here were so great that the UK government should break EU laws to prevent it; now, only 35% take that view. Opinion has shifted mostly towards the view that there is “nothing wrong” with Romanians and Bulgarians having the right to come here and “we should welcome it”. 26% no choose this option, up from 16% in December.

Another 19% (up slightly from 17% last December) do believe the immigration will be hurtful, but not enough to give Britain reason to break EU law, meaning the majority – 54%, down from 66% – still view the immigration as "damaging". The remainder either don’t know (12%) or chose “none of these” (16%).

In addition, support for free movement – or the right of EU citizens to live and work in other EU countries – has gone up. A slim majority (52%) now support the rule, up from 45% last December. A third (32%) oppose it, down from 38%.

False alarm?

British voters are divided on whether warnings themselves about “large numbers” Bulgarian and Romanians coming to the UK this January were overblown. 29% say they were, 21% say it is too early to tell and a third (34%) say large numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians probably did come here, and the numbers are wrong.

Two-thirds of UKIP supporters chose the third option, as did 58% of people who oppose free movement.

See the full poll results

Image: Getty