Badmouthing London

Romania invites migration and Britain mulls an ad campaign to discourage immigrants

Whitehall has long been worried that the wafting aroma of fish, chips and vinegar will entice new entrants to the European Union, primarily of Eastern European origin, to lay siege to the rocky shores of Portsmouth and Dover. The expiration of EU labour controls in 2014, which will allow Bulgarians and Romanians to work in Britain without specific restrictions, appears to have stoked anxieties to such a degree that the government is reportedly considering issuing negative ads warning would-be immigrants that old blighty is a rather nasty place. It even prompted one minister to call for correcting "the impression that the streets here are paved with gold", nearly recalling the animus of Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech criticising Commonwealth immigration in 1968.

The Bulgarian and Romanian governments have reacted with understandable dismay to the portrayal of their citizens as desperate hordes packing their bags to flood an idyllic Albion. Romania's president alluded to his country's natural beauty, which has even persuaded Prince Charles to purchase Transylvanian properties. A Romanian news site has poked fun at the idea of Britain-as-migrant-paradise by issuing its own ads asking, "Why don't you come over?" The posters offer such gems as, "Our air traffic controllers have seen snow before. They were unimpressed", a reference to Heathrow's regular closures and flight disruptions each winter.

Indeed, there is no shortage of material to fuel Britain's negative publicity blitz to keep away future immigrants. It rains rather a lot and the limitations of its cuisine are well known. The trains are expensive, the economy still mired in recession and there are few jobs to go around. And there is something remarkably British about London trashing its own image at a time when other governments are turning a welcoming face to tourists and migrants alike.

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