Romanian and Bulgarian migrants bring "knowledge and experience" London businesses "badly need" and fill a skills gap that British youngsters cannot, The London Chamber of Commerce has said.
Chief executive Colin Stanbridge said:
Political rhetoric on migrant workers has stepped up in recent days as the deadline for removal of restrictions approaches. However, the debate often fails to take into account the positive benefits that migration brings to the London economy.
Migrant workers are often highly skilled, bringing with them knowledge and experience that London businesses badly need - now - in order to continue to grow.
Of course the Government needs to equip our young people with the skills that businesses require, but that will take years.
Experts predict 250,000 Romanian and Bulgarian migrants will move the UK over the next five years when restrictions on entry to the UK are lifted on January 1.
According to a report by Migration Watch UK:
- A Romanian with two children and a spouse on the average wage in their home country will take home £4,000 after tax
- A Bulgarian in the same circumstance will take home £3,800
- Even if they were still on half the average Romanian or Bulgarian wage, that worker will be six times better off in the UK
- They are three times better off in Spain or Italy
- Germany is the "most attractive destination" as it has a low unemployment rate and large number of vacancies
Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants will still see the UK as the most attractive EU country because of "generous" in-work benefits, a study has claimed.
Migration Watch UK has warned that new curbs to tackle benefit tourism will not deter Balkan migrants because reforms only prevent migrants from collecting out-of-work benefits.
Romanian and Bulgarian migrants already living in Spain and Italy may come to the UK when restrictions are lifted on January 1 because there are "considerably greater" financial rewards.
Migration Watch UK chairman Sir Andrew Green said: "This study shows how Britain's generous benefits system acts as a pull factor for migrants from across Europe.
"There must now be a renegotiation of the benefit system in the EU which was designed before 100 million people in much poorer countries joined the EU. British taxpayers must no longer subsidise immigration from poorer parts of the EU."
With just two weeks until Bulgarian and Romanian members of the EU are free to travel to the UK, a sharp divide over managing that emerged. In addition to saying a cap would be illegal, Nick Clegg said any attempt by the Conservatives to "pull up the draw-bridge" would be bad for British business.
ITV News Political Editor Tom Bradby reports:
I think it is important to understand the base line when you look at a country like Norway, it is of course outside the European Union and it is free to do whatever it likes.
But the EU is an enormous trading partner sitting right on its border, it can't possibly not trade with it and in order to trade freely it has to accept freedom of movement, which is one of the founding principles of the EU.
So that is the bottom line reality. If you're talking about reform, stopping people coming here and claiming benefits for example, or using the NHS, there is a reasonable chance that might be negotiated or more measures might be negotiated.
But if you're talking about stopping people coming here and working I think that is much more difficult.
Yes, Mr Cameron is talking about new countries like Turkey maybe joining the EU and delaying that until they are richer, but I wouldn't bet on it and I wouldn't bet on getting our European partners to agree to that.
Home Secretary Theresa May has refused to be drawn on Nick Clegg's criticism of her department, telling the Home Affairs Select Committee, "I'm going to address the issue rather than an individual."
Ms May told the committee today: "He has, as I understand it, made a statement on the basis of if we were going to do this now, this is what the situation would be.
"What I'm saying is, I'm not proposing to do it now. We're talking about potential reforms of accession treaties for the future."