The news that the UK immigration restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria are due to be lifted at the end of the year has prompted rampant speculation regarding the numbers likely to move to Britain.
Politicians are being cautious on issuing firm details and the Coalition is keen to emphasise that lessons have been learned from Labour's experiences when Poland joined the EU and an influx of migrant workers rushed to Britain. But so far there haven't been any figures issued.
Migration Watch, an organisation it is worth noting does not take a particularly favourable view on immigration, has decided to take matters into its own hands and conduct some research.
The study came up with the figure of 50,000 over the first five years, although the paper notes that the number could be “considerably higher if there were to be a movement of Roma to the UK, or if some of the nearly one million Romanians in both Spain and Italy should transfer to Britain”.
The figure is based on a comparison of income rates and employment opportunities in the new EU countries, earlier members and potential destinations, such as the UK.
But one of the biggest differences between the current situation and the changes bought in in 2004 is the fact that all other EU countries will also be required to open their labour markets up to the new members. Britain's high unemployment rate could also make it a less attractive destination, when compared with countries that are enjoying more prosperous times at the moment, such as the Netherlands and Germany.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the think tank, commented: “It is not good enough to duck making an estimate of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria. It is likely to be on a scale that will have significant consequences for housing and public services.
“It will also add further to the competition which young British workers already face. We have therefore produced our own estimate as a contribution to an important debate which must include the ease with which migrants to the UK can currently access the welfare state.”