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Europe diary: UKIP in Romania

21 December 2006

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell shadows the leader of the UK Independence Party on a trip to Romania, looking for signs of a softening to his opposition to the country's forthcoming entry into the European Union.


Nigel Farage is perhaps a little out of place in Bucharest's cheapest meat market. None of the other shoppers eyeing up the pig's ears and trotters is wearing a sharp chalk-stripe suit.

Nigel Farage in the European Parliament
Nigel Farage on home ground, in the European Parliament
While the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party may be overdressed for picking up a pre-Christmas porky bargain, he has found what he's after. The first Romanian butcher Mr Farage talks to, enthusiastically cleaving pork chops on top of what looks like a large tree stump, is unaware that any hygiene standards will change when his country joins the European Union on New Year's Day.

Nigel Farage says this is his point, or one of his points, in a nutshell. "Any idea that they are obeying the 90,000 rules we have to follow is absolute nonsense. It matters for Britain because there isn't a level playing field. On 1 January we are entering a political union with Romania... and surely we haven't got that much in common, have we?"


It is perhaps appropriate that I am following Mr Farage's journey round the meat market on St Ignatius' Day when, according to the local English language newspaper, Nine O'clock, pigs are slaughtered before Christmas in an echo of a pagan ceremony.

Animal fair at Rosiori de Vede
Pigs' tails are a cure for fear
Brave but not merciful men must perform the deed otherwise the pork will not taste so good. The pig's tail is a cure for fear in women and children. A spleen swollen towards the end means heavy snows. A bloody heart indicates prosperity in the coming year.

Mr Farage is not reading the pig's organs, but he predicts prosperity for Romania's civil servants, who he thinks are pro-EU just because they'll get good jobs in Brussels.

He predicts misery for everyone else. He's here at the invitation of the Romanian government, which is stung that he's become known as one of the bluntest and most vociferous critics of their country joining the EU, even though he's never been here before. Most Romanians are hurt by the way they are portrayed in the British media and think there are a lot of myths that are being taken as fact.

But Mr Farage wants to know what sort of country Britain has agreed to join in what he calls "a political union". As the leader of a political party which thinks the European Union should be abolished, it's scarcely surprising he's looking for the negative. But I'll be interested to see if he has changed his mind about anything by the end of the trip.


Outside the meat market, traders are selling Christmas trees and mistletoe. Mr Farage stands, slightly bemused, by an enthusiastic pre-Christmas street theatre. A man covered in a costume fashioned from paper streamers leaps in a wild dance to the beat of drum and fiddle, blowing a whistle and snapping the jaws of an unidentifiable wooden beast as he twists and jerks.

Roma and lorry
Romanians often complain that foreign media focus on the Roma
"Is it some kind of bird?" I ask one Romanian. "No, a goat, very folkloric," I am told, but never get to the bottom of the story, or the metaphor.

The UKIP leader predicts that many thousands more Romanians will come to Britain, despite the government's work permit scheme. He jokes with a jolly looking Roma woman trying to sell a Christmas tree taller than she is: "See you in London," he says. "Maybe," she replies.

We are filming a wonderfully photogenic old lady, hunched and weather-beaten, selling strings of cloves of miniature garlic, which look rather tastier than the giants available in Western supermarkets - I'll let you know after Christmas if they live up to their promise - when I am aware of a commotion behind us. A man has come up to our party and is saying something along the lines of, "You British media, you are all the same, only interested in filming the Roma and then trying to pretend were all like that. We're not!" It's a common complaint.


It's no wonder the Romanian government feels defensive and the people are cross about the way they are portrayed. It's not just a couple of British tabloids, for times really have changed since the last growth of the European Union.

Now even those most enthusiastic about the EU project have reservations

Two years ago when Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, the Czechs the Slovaks and the Slovenes joined there was an atmosphere of optimism and joy, at least among those who cleave to the European dream. They felt that this was destiny, the reuniting of a Europe sundered by communism, the making whole of a continent. Now Romania and Bulgaria are joining almost under a cloud, with even those most enthusiastic about the EU project having public and private reservations.

Some ask if they are really ready. Britain and Ireland, which imposed no restrictions on workers from the countries that joined in 2004, have done so this time. Even after joining, Romania and Bulgaria will have to strive to meet higher standards in the fight against corruption and food safety, and they will be punished financially if they don't.


Mr Farage isn't the only British politician in Bucharest. Immigration Minister Joan Ryan is here too, looking at a call centre answering telephone inquiries from Romanians who want to work in Britain.

Lord Kitchener poster
Lord Kitchener: No role for him in this UK poster campaign
The British government has produced thousands of posters and leaflets bearing a union jack and the message, "You CANNOT work in Britain without a work permit!" Sort of "Our country doesn't need you!" without Lord Kitchener. The call centre is there to reinforce the tough message that work is only on offer to the highly skilled, or people wanting jobs in food processing.

But Romanians will be able to come to work if they describe themselves as self-employed and will certainly be allowed into an EU country, no questions asked, so critics wonder whether this policy can work. The minister tells me: "Yes they do have freedom of movement and that's by virtue of becoming a full member of the European Union. However, we have increased our enforcement activity and anyone who is working outside the areas we've identified, like agriculture and food processing, is working illegally. And we will be pursuing enforcement and there will be sanctions."


Joan Ryan also meets Romanian police officers who are taking part in something called Operation Reflex. It's funded partly by the British government and is designed to stop organised crime coming from Romania to Britain.

Employees of Romanian software company
Romania has a strong IT sector, as well as some cyber crime
I speak to a couple of senior officers, on the condition they are not named and their faces are not shown. One is dealing with people trafficking and says that he dealt with 193 cases last year, many involving the trafficking of Moldovans through Romania. He says it amounts to modern-day slavery.

The other is dealing with cyber crime and has dealt with 600 offences, about 10% of them affecting Britain. Even here the Romanians are determined to fight the stereotype that has been put about by the British media. "Why," I ask, "are so many Romanians involved in this sort of crime?" The officer replies: "Because they don't like to see violence and are highly educated and trained in IT skills."


At the end of the day, over a beer in the hotel bar, Mr Farage hears from the barman Daniel. He is also furious about the image in the British press. He says they are being presented as diseased and criminal, and it's not true. He adds that joining the EU could have another benefit: the Roma will go to other countries.

If my children will be able to drink healthy water just because of what you call stupid European regulations it's already worth joining
Anton Niculescu, Foreign Ministry
Mr Farage, who abhors political correctness, says at last someone has got to the root of the issue without pussyfooting around.

The trip is not over, so it's difficult to know if UKIP's leader has changed his views at all. He does say he welcomes Romania as an ally against anti-Americanism and I think he is impressed, if not converted, by the case put by a state secretary at the foreign ministry, Anton Niculescu, who tells him how it will feel to be able to travel freely, when 17 years ago he was not allowed a passport.

Taunted about new rules and regulations, he says, "If my children will be able to drink healthy water just because of what you call stupid European regulations it's already worth joining the EU." Mr Farage's return jibe about big brother doesn't bother him. Mr Niculescu says: "I will become part of the big brother. I will be there to influence what big brother is saying."

Your comments:

I am not sure what all this fuss is about. At first this country allowed immigration from the Commonwealth for jobs locals did not wish to do. Now that the children of those immigrants have been absorbed into British life, they do not wish to do the jobs their parents performed. So we need new immigrants to do the low-skilled jobs. Also, one has to have a younger work force as we are not likely to have sufficient numbers to work in twenty years. A country's survival depends on a significant population being under the age of 25 for it to have a future.
Anand Bal, Orpington

Politicians like Mr Farage are capitalizing on people's bewilderment at the changes in their societies and the dissolution of the sense of identity in their local communities. What Mr Farage doesn't care to see is that this loss of identity is just as acute in Romanian communities as it is in the UK. If he did, he would have to recognize that the EU has nothing to do with what causes this sense of alienation and loss. The EU is not an artificial body that threatens the individual character of nations. Enlargement is the EU's way to adapt to evolving political and socio-economic realities on the continent. Blaming the EU for whatever sense of loss we may feel in the globalized world is as irrational and futile as blaming urbanization.
Sergiu Vasilov, Iasi, Romania

I work for an EU body. I got the job because I was fluent in English, French and Italian, had a postgraduate degree in Information Science and a lot of experience in my field. This job was advertised in the UK but no Briton applied for it. Romanians can successfully compete against the Brits despite all the hurdles put ahead of them.
Lucia Stefan, Ispra, Italy

Breathing a little competitive pressure down the necks of our fellow European citizens might wake them up from the lethargic and complacent state of affairs Europe finds itself in these days (at least the continental part of Europe). So yes, I think it's a good thing. On the subject of "stupid European regulations": they are a little bit more visible and enforceable than "stupid Romanian regulations", so I do believe that the drinking water along with a lot of other things will get better.
Alexandru Isar, Frankfurt am Main

The British care system, housing and education system are already bad (that is creating all this fuss). People who keep talking about how newcomers will make it worse fail to recognize the burning issue: the current management is terrible. However it is easier to keep using the EU and enlargement as a scapegoat, than actually do something. The Goat Dance is a pre-Christian tradition, similar to Celtic ones, that is supposed to bring good fortune (for crops, animals, etc). The rites didnt disappear, but were assimilated with Christian traditions (it is called tolerance).
Radu Cazan, Atlanta, GA, USA

Don't worry, we won't go to the UK. The poor people who are supposed to emigrate for good jobs are already working in Western countries. Besides that, here the economy is growing and there are predictions that there will be a lack of workers. Unemployment is under the EU average. It is obvious there won't be a second wave after the Poles.
Gabriel, Bucharest, Romania

Having travelled in both the UK and Romania, I can't see what the British are worried about. I saw very few reasons for a middle-class Romanian to come to the UK to be poor. Only fools are impressed by higher incomes on paper, when it comes at a price of lower quality of life. The British should be more worried about the Romanians who are staying in their own country and competing against them in IT or manufacturing, rather than the ones cleaning their toilets or picking their vegetables.
Jeff, Arlington, Virginia, USA

Nobody seems to notice, in this effort to stop the illegal workers in the UK, that IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO! What I mean is there are illegal worrkes, because work is OFFERED illegally!! You should better focus on getting business owners in UK to respect the rules, rather then make this psychological war against Romanians. We have a saying in Romania: "It's no stupid to eat four breads, it's stupid to offer them".
Gica Ionescu, Bucharest, Romania

British politicians concerned about dubious Romanian butchers should be reminded that BSE also known as Mad Cow Disease, originated in Britain in spite of all the bureaucratic European regulations. Romanians let cattle free on the range, to eat grass as they've always done, and don't feed them so called protein originating from other slaughtered animals. Maybe by allowing Romania to join, the other Europeans might learn some old good Romanian habits.
Erwin Wechsler, Glendale, California

Will people worrying about Romanian immigration to the UK please re-read Daria Catalina Dobre's post. Aside from what she said, how many British 17 year olds could write so well and so elegantly in their first language let alone in a foreign tongue? Britain would be very foolish to discourage new arrivals of Daria's caliber.
Phil Hardyu, Sussex, England

Thanks for all of those who do not believe exactly everything that the British media said about Romania. It is true, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but also there are lots of great people living there. How about talking about them for a change? To tell you the truth, at the moment, the only reason for me to be happy that Romania joins EU is that my family can finally come and visit me. I think it is disgrateful that, because I live here (legally, by the way), it would have been ten times more difficult for my family to get visa.
Roxana, York

I don't know any Romanians in the UK, but I have a British colleague here in Bucharest. In the Bucharest area the unemployment is under 2%. Romania needs workers. It is odd to hear that what we are just waiting to go to UK. Kind regards.
Adrian, Bucharest, Romania

It is nice to see that a politician such as Mr Farage has gone to the trouble of visiting a foreign country - I'm not so sure if his reasons are entirely commendable, although nobody knows what might actually come out of this. A note for Mr Mardell - while it is very good you show the lives of ordinary Romanians, going in the markets etc, and you also talk with the local authorities, it would be nice if for once foreign reporters and journalists in Romania would also meet the local highly educated people - professors, engineers, artists, writers, managers. Or maybe you think these people are not 'representative' of the country?
Mike London, London, UK

There was no thought to please us when the leading powers handed us to the Kommunist Soviet Union at the end of WW II. I think we are even now. We're finally back where we belong and I'm far from thinking for a career swap to clean the London Underground or work in the British food industry. I also think I'm speaking for the lot here.
Nikola Vargov, Varna, Bulgaria

I've no idea what Romania or Bulgaria are like and have never met anyone these these countries but I do wonder why the Poles in the UK (according to a recent survey) don't want workers from these countries coming here.
Colin Dawson, London

Romanians' image presented by our journalists is as accurate as a foreigner's definition of Britain based on exploring only the chavs' ways.
Sandy, Sunderland, UK

Why does Romania need stupid European regulations to ensure that it's residents drink healthy water? Couldn't they have stupid Romanian regulations? If they wouldn't comply with regulations that they themselves have determined what makes anyone think that they will comply with European ones?
Michael Barnes, Milton Keynes, UK

Nigel Farage for PM. Someone that speaks for the silent majority. Pro American. Anti Europe. Dump politically correct. Refreshing. More please.
serena clarke, Bexley Kent

Romania is a big plus for the EU...I do not understand why such special and hard working people are feared by the British. I remember in the not too distant past this was the same view held by the British against the Irish. Lets get one thing straight about the Roma,They too are a gifted people who have decided to live in the wilds out of Society's bounds.They suffer a huge price for such wind blown freedom.There are lessons to learn from all peoples of the world their value in human terms are just as great as any found in England.
Graeme Outerbridge, Bermuda

I know what the British public believes, but I honestly don't think that Romanians are going to come flooding into their country like the Polish did. For a start, it's very far away and it's not at all easy to get there (there are no low cost airlines like easyJet or Ryanair flying to Bucharest). Also there's a huge difference in climate, language and culture. Romanians will prefer to go to Italy, where there are already big Romanian communities. Moreover, it's near to home, the culture is more similar, the language is closer... I have a place to study in London next year, it has been my dream for a long time. But I am really worried about how it will be for me there, considering how negatively we are portrayed. I don't want everyone to think that Romanians are all layabouts (although I don't think Roma are layabouts either, it's just another way of life which is different from mine) and thieves. Romanians feel very hurt and angry about this portrayal, since we are truly a hard working country and it has been hard for us to rebuild after years under a communist dictatorship. We have been a very poor country with alot of suffering, it's only through hard work that we've turned things around. You don't hear all this criticism about Romanians when the world is watching our gymnastics team win yet another gold medal!! You can be sure that any Romanians who come to Britain will be working so hard, and trying their best to contribute positively to the community; because people are hurt by what's being said about us, and they want to show that it's not the case. Daria, 17
Daria Catalina Dobre, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

I think admitting Romania into the EU was one of biggest mistakes ever made throughout human history. Both Romania and Bulgaria are at least 100 years behind the least developed country already in the EU, Portugal. Trying to pass legislation, directives and issues to do with hygiene are non-starters in Romania.
Victor, Athens, Greece

As a Romanian living abroad, I can only hope that Mr. Farage had the opportunity to try some of those grilled pork chops (along with red Romanian wine, of course). Only then his EU skepticism might just go up in smoke. It will then be hard to argue that Romania does not bring anything useful into the EU.
Paul H., Bellingham, WA, USA

The UK is a country built on immigration, in theory if you go back far enough there is no such thing as an 'englishman'. There has always been people complaining about immigrants, however at the end of the day that's all this nation is! Given time people from other countries integrate into our society, just look at our favourite food, Curry!
Darren Hughes, Cambridge, UK

Perhaps every time a new country gains access to our borders (?) the EU would be so kind as to furnish us with funding for the extra hospitals, Doctors, Dentists, housing, water facilities, Police, prisons, and social infrastructure needed to cope with the influx of economic migrants.
Rich, Poole, England

I fully agree with Nigel Farage. At the least he goes to Romania to see for himself rather than remaining behind a cosy desk EU desk somewhere in Europe. The article only highights that we do indeed have very little in common with Romania a country which I have visited many times as a telecoms professional. Enlargement is all good and well but the EU has at the moment too many internal problems which it should resolve before adding new members. For what its worth Romania and Bulgaria should stay out as much as Turkey being an issue at the moment.
Dirk Smet, High Halden United Kingdom

Mr Farage, should perhaps talk to a wider range of Romanians. As someone with strong links to Romanian, in that we own property, have lived and worked there, and is married to a Romanian. I feel that he is engaging the wrong Romanians, to question their understanding of the ramifications of the EU. A barman and a butcher are hardly reflective of Romanian opinion. Is today the turn of the baker and candlestick maker?
Paul Ferguson, Barry, South Wales

Mr Mardell correctly points out that the Romanian people are amazed by the reports and accusations coming out from the British press. As an Englishman living in Bucharest they are deeply embarrassing and come across as ignorant and arrogant. Romania is a truely remarkable country of traditions and wonderfully proud people. Of course it has its negative points, but - and i wonder if the people of GREAT Britain know this - so does GB. The image of the British over here is not exactly one to be proud of and it is far more justified than that of the Romanians portrayed by the British press. It would be very easy for me to do a report on certain parts of the UK where povety, unemployment, drug use and aids are rife and then portray it as the bases for the entire nation (I am in no way accusing Mr Mardell of this). Please give Romania a chance. Every country has its rotten eggs, but the fantastic tradition, diversity, friendship and geographical marvels of this beautiful country far outweigh them. Good luck Romania!
Philip Stringer, Bucharest, Romania

I hope that Scotland receives an influx of Romanian workers, as I feel sure that we will benefit from it as an economy and as a culture.
Catherine Reid, Glasgow, Scotland

Congratulations Mark, I have the feeling that you are improving (slowly but at an acceptable pace) your knowledge about my country and it's people (all of them including the Roma). Hopefully some of your readers will get curious and they will come here to make their own minds. Romania is an interesting country, because it's full of contrasts. A part of it feels basically Central European, there is a strong Slavic influence in the East, and our capital and much of the S-E look and feel like a part of the Balkans. Nigel Farage would have noticed a lot of similarities with "good old Britain" in the West of the country, and I'm sure he would have had a huge surprise. Anyway, it felt a little bit awkward but really funny to see some of our local Christmas traditions through the eyes of a foreigner. (Guess somebody will have the time and knowledge to explain what the dancing goat means... I'm also puzzled).
Mihai, Vaslui, Romania

Mr Farage's positions are typical for the convoluted logic of the anti-EU fanatics.. On the one hand he complains there are not enough rules to ensure a level-playing field with countries such as Romania. At the same time he opposes EU regulation. Clearly some Romanians are smarter than him in recognizing the EU's regulatory achievements in eg environmental protection (clean water), to name but one. For lack of a better alternative the EU often is the world's de facto regulatory standard protecting our children, environment, consumers etc. There will undoubtedly be some excesses which need to be addressed... Nonetheless, on the whole EU regulation is not the laughing matter UKIP & their friends in your tabloids make it out to be, but something we should all be proud of...!
Robby Van den Wyngaert, Antwerp, Belgium

I'm British, married to a Romanian since 1994 and living in The Netherlands. Romania, like any country, is a diverse country with many facets. It is absolutely true that the media does focus on the negative - it makes far more compelling viewing to film a gypsy in the streets selling old roots, or an orphan banging its head against a cot, than it does to accurately portray the lives of the average educated Romanian. In my experience, the average Romanian is *far* better educated than the average Brit, better read (in the classics of all nations, not just natinal writers), better at mathematics and has a wide and balanced understanding of geography and world history. The UK would do well to accept these Romanians (the majority) and not focus on the down-and-outs. Go to a country. Absorb its culture. Visit its peoples' homes. Learn the language. Then form judgements. Slick photography of a country's homeless say nothing. I could create the same impression of the UK in 20 minutes with a camcorder in the heart of any major UK city.
Paul Howland, Wassenaar, The Netherlands

Mr Farage is the only UK political leader prepared to see and tell the truth about the EU. I suggest Mark Mardell spend a lot more time with him and he might give us more reality and less propaganda in future. The 'European dream' is a nightmare and it's time to wake up!
Matthew Faithfull, Nottingham, England

Most british people of my acquaintance have little antipathy to new arrivals to uk providing that they are here to work legally, cause minor problems only, and conform to behaviour standards that are acceptable to host community. We should have probationary period in which conformity to our requirements is establishe before residence is granted . We must get a grip on the fundamentals. Britain should cease to be what it is increasingly seen to be. namely, incompetent ,and a soft touch for the unscrupulous.
ron reece, blackmore uk

Nigel Farage asks what the two countries have in common and the answer is, other than a perversely close relationship with the US, they are both full EU members (as at Jan 1 2007). What would a similar Romanian government mission to the UK produce? Evidence of a country full of racism, paedophiles, xenophobes and an underachieving local workforce? The streets of Britain are not paved with gold for foreigners, in fact the only place that British people (men) wish to see Eastern Europeans is in the brothels that they frequent. Yes in Britain the streets are paved with dodgy massage parlours and they think that trafficking is an issue the mayor's congestion charge deals with. If there was no market there would be no trafficking.
Seth Richardson, London, UK

The feebleness of the Immigration Minister Joan Ryan's interpretation of the EU Treaty's Four Fundamental Freedoms exhibited in this article is so pathetic that will undoubtedly bring an official challenge from the Romanian government at the ECJ sooner or later.
Bogdan V. Lepadatu, Bucharest, Romania

I travelled through Romania a few years ago and fell in love with the country. Most young people I spoke to are learning multiple European languages and training in skills which will be internationally recognised and useful. The have also been updating industry and agriculture. Peasant farmers in Transylvania already cannot sell milk to the dairy which has not been mechanically milked, as the dairy has been owned by a French company for years and French standards apply. They have adapted, otherwise they cannot sell their products through mainstream channels, that is a huge incentive to change. We are all adapting to an open Europe and Britain is in a position to take advantage of this more than most.
Kate J, London

I find it very telling that the Romanian barman says "The Roma will go to other countries." The Roma are despised everywhere they go and apparently Romania is no different. If this is what Romanians are hoping for by joining the EU then quite frankly, I don't want them to join.
Christopher Slater-Walker, Watford, England

While I can understand and respect the ideas of the UKIP and of its leader, I believe that Romania joining the EU is a good thing. Yes, we might be lacking in standards and other areas, but we are able to offer good profesionals, hard working people and new ideas. If some of us are rather sub-standard it does not mean that we are all like that.
Andrei Dumitrescu, Bucuresti, Romania

I am a true believer in everything European and think the diversity among our cultures gives Europe a wealth of culture. However Im starting to think that our diversity and history is too bigger obstacle for us to over come, in order for us to have a truly effective union. Britain is very different from the rest of Europe even down to the day in which we eat Christmas dinner. I think we all know that the European Union is far too bureaucratic and as a result slows the process of change and growth. To a certain extent I do agree with Nigel Farage however I am a believer in Europe and maybe including Romania into the European Union may not be in our best interest, however if it can take more people out of poverty then it will be worth while.
Mark Jennings , Salamanca Spain

The admittance of other countries at the behest of unelected politicians is typical of the way Europe functions, the people should vote on any country who wants to belong to Europe. Europe is fashioned on the ideas of Napoleon, no democratic accountability, appointed politicians, no financial accountability, and like Napoleonic France; Europe must keep expanding to finance the bureaucracy. The critics of Europe are treated with ridicule by Europhiles because the Europeans are afraid that their "gravy train" will be lost. Perhaps the Europhiles will tell all of the people what are the benefits to the people of Europe, because we see, the steel industry, the fishing industry, car industry destroyed.
Peter, Spalding, England

Nigel Farrage represents a lonely original voice in British politics - sincerely held views supported by intelligence, rather than relying on mere spin and presentation. Sadly, the Britain Nigel stands up for is on its death-bed; mass immigration to Britain from the 1950's onward has largely destroyed British identity and culture. British identity today is largely only geographical - a place that can be pointed to on the map as a chosen destination for migrants worldwide.
tim myall, uk

The "Lord Kitchener" flyer might be a good idea. In the early Nineties, someone I knew in Romania paid a lot of money to cruel scamsters for an alleged list of potential employers of unskilled labour in Norway, which was merely a list of offshore petroleum companies copied out of the phone book. I hope jobseekers have developed a resistance to this sort of thing since then.
David, Bergen, Norway

It was interesting to hear Mr Farage mention America. UKIP doesn't do that very often. I imagine if they said to the British public abandon Europe and give your aligence to the USA in the current climate, they would lose many votes. I have always assumed that UKIP were little Englanders who still believed in the empire but I see they are actually super right wing Tories instead. You can't have a market without rules and you need a political side to make those rules.
Simon , London

I have to agree with Mr Farage. I am pleased he is visiting these countries but his argument is valid. Britain will see yet another influx of immigrants, good or bad, despite our Government suggesting otherwise. Why can the EU not just be an alliance of nations, rather than a political union creating a country of Europe? Let's return to a simple free trade agreement and regain sovereingty and co-operate. We can opt-in to good elements of a single market but via treaty, thus keeping ultimate sovereignty in Westminster. For countries who only recently freed themselves from communism they are about to join its equivalent!
Harry, UK

The UK public infrastructure does not have the funding to cope with another large influx of economic migrants from a poor country. This is not Xenophobic or lacking in compassion. The schools, GP surgeries, law enforcement services in the poor areas where people settle do not have the resources to cope. Government counters are only marginally better than when they predicted 20,000 Poles would migrate - when the truth was nearer 1,000,000. Another scandal in the making. Surely the politicians will be held to account at some point.
Ken Charman, Wokingham, UK

Mark Mardell says that UKIP is a party which wants to abolish the European Union. This is wrong, and indeed, unachievable. UKIP merely wants to withdraw the UK from the European Union. If other countries wish to remain members, that is for them (or, at least, their politicians) to decide - as it is for the UK itself.
Alec Gallagher, Potton, England

You know what? Few will be bothered about ''permits'' they will come over here, because they cannot be stopped, and then just ''get a job''. All the usual rubbish from government ministers about crackdowns and all the rest of it is complete nonesense - as usual. I already know quite a number of Bulgarians already working here without permits and have done for years! All anyone has to do is say ''I am self employed'' and its all OK. If the objective is to stop the new countries, it wont work because of this 'channel tunnel hole'' (bigger than a loop hole) Pathetic.
rob cargill, london

On a day when it has been announced that more teenagers are out of work in Britain than there were in 1997 one has to think about the effects of immigration. When an employer can get the services of an adult on child wages, perhaps one with some skills, it's win-win for the business. The deficit is that no one wants to train youngsters; because of the prevalence of job seekers we are not addressing our long term skills needs; the thought that my son will face such an unbalanced jobs market is quite frightening.
Malcolm Turner, uk

I spent 4 months working in Romania to help improve drinking and bathing water last year. When we have a neighbour that is so like us but so poor we need to help. That way we can achieve the political stability that wider Europe needs. It is also a matter of humanity. However, the Romanians will bring a great deal of benefit in time. The agricultural potential for market garden crops is great and their engineering is first rate. At least they bring hope, unlike UKIP.
John Fawell, High Wycombe

I am on Mr Farage's side here, especially as far as the treatment of livestock is concerned. My wife and I have a 2-acre smallholding in Lincolnshire and keep goats, 3 sheep and two pot-bellied pigs - all "pets" but we have to conform to reams of bureaucratic documents regarding housing, feeding, tagging, selling by-products, welfare, movement orders (mainly onto the holding). The EU comprises countries which, it is common knowledge, do not adhere to these rules. Your description of the treatment of pigs is only one example. I say, make the applicants to the EU show that they can and do comply before granting access!
William Kettle, Lincolnshire UK

Britain - and to a larger extent, Europe - is experiencing the same immigration issues as America. With one difference: multiple languages. The fact that Europe has managed to balance the complexities of demography with the consensus of its peoples is an example to the world. If only America could solve its own immigration shortcomings with its neighbor to the south!
Matthew, Baton Rouge, LA USA

Rather than add fuel to xenophobia why not start by doing some real research into what makes Romania and Romanians tick? Reading one local English-language newspaper is hardly the same thing! Much has changed here (I write from Bucharest) in the ten years I have visited the country off and on - much of that for the better. And EU aspirations in one way or another have been one of the major driving forces.
Richard Linning, Eythorne, Kent

Mark: I hope you are prepared to take the views of UKIP seriously, instead of just regarding them as 'negative' or making cheap jibes about his pinstripe suit. I love Europe. I love the diversity of cultures and languages that exists. And I'm not a supporter of UKIP. But I'm increasingly frustrated by the EU. One day, we agreed to join a common market and the next we have woken up to find ourselves in a vast political union with many other countries, with which we have little in common.

At no point since was I offered a vote in favour of this process. Instead I find that the laws of this country are dicatated by Brussels and that billions of UK taxpayers' money is poured out of Britain into other parts of the EU. Our farming base is being decimated, yet that of France and the rest of the EU continues to prosper.

It's natural that these countries want to join when they see the pot of gold that awaits them at the end of the EU rainbow.
Ken, Kenilworth, Warwickshire

I've never really understood the isolationist viewpoint. Do members of nationalist, isolationist parties really abhor other human beings so much so that they would deny them the support, assistance and benefits that an economy and society such as ours can offer? It may seem like we are getting a "raw deal" now, but surely in 5, 10, 20 years when the "playing field" is level, we will all benefit? I think it's quite a selfish way of thinking as the ideals behind it are so introvert and focused on the here and now and the individual instead of the future and the greater good. Do these people also enjoy wars as they are good for our arms trade?
Andy Vincent, Fleet, Hants, UK

UKIP's viewpoint is not isolationist, we dont mind being part of a global free market we just object to being part of an inflexible undemocratic, expensive ,bureaucratic state which doesnt meet the needs of the British people. When it comes to immigration we just need to integrate the immigrants we have here rather than keep on having wave after wave of them coming over and only let more in if they can satisfy work and educational requirements.
John Millar,, London

I commend Mark Mardell for beeing seen in public with Nigel Farage, it is a brave (but perhaps foolhardy) thing to do. It must have felt like going shopping with Bungle from Rainbow.
Debbie Storm, Edinburgh

Romanians talk about working in Britain


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