27/11/2013 09:26 GMT | Updated 26/01/2014 05:59 GMT

Bulgarians at the Gates

After five hard years, a fragile recovery is taking shape in the UK. Unemployment is going down, economic growth is creeping up. We're at the foot of a steep mountain and there's a long journey ahead, but it's not one Britain hasn't successfully climbed many times before.

Our absolute focus must be on nurturing and fuelling this recovery based on lessons learnt from the past. Any distraction from a laser-sharp focus on recovery is at best a set-back and at worst a threat to sustaining the momentum necessary to get us, and keep us, out of danger.

The immigration debate is exactly this, a distraction. It amounts to pre-2014 EU elections posturing by right-wing interest groups looking to secure public support and, more importantly, votes. It's political game-playing for votes, through tapping into latent xenophobia, rather than a true concern for economic growth. Nothing more.

Currently this is rhetoric based on mild xenophobia, but if the hollow debate continues it risks dragging more and more attention away from issues that really matter.

In truth, Bulgarian immigrants amount to such a small blip in the British economy that their true significance can hardly be understated. In any case, whatever money Bulgarians earn is almost entirely recycled back into the domestic, British, economy.

But there's little point in dwelling on traditional pro-immigration arguments of improved public finances and filled job-gaps.

Instead, imagine that every wasted article and every minute of airtime spent on immigration, potentially affecting a tiny fraction of a percent of Britain's economy, is a minute not spent deciding how Britain will build a resilient post-recession economy. Recovery is not guaranteed and there are some serious challenges to overcome if we want to see a prosperous Britain in the years to come. To name a few:

  • The need to stimulate tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of young people to pursue education and careers in engineering, science and technology; careers which hold significant added value to the nation's ability to innovate and remain competitive
  • The need to empower small and medium-sized businesses to thrive domestically and internationally. For example, through significant necessary improvements to our technological infrastructure
  • The need to reform higher education so it meets the needs of industry. Reform will not only employers but the ability to show graduates they can be successful entrepreneurs working, creating and prospering in Britain

These are just a few of the many challenges which have to be addressed in building the economy back up from recent historic lows.

Only focus and hard work can move us forward. Finger-pointing based on exaggerated threats can only serve to sideline that focus. Too many British families have suffered through the last few years just to see the light at the end of the tunnel recklessly blown out for politics' sake.

I was born in Bulgaria, but have spent two-thirds of my life in Britain. It's not my Bulgarian side which is angered by the immigration debate - it's my British side. It's simply not fair on Britain and its people to be so negligently distracted when the possibility of recovery is so tantalisingly close.

It's time to put an end to these self-serving arguments, and to start building the foundation of recovery through focusing on education, infrastructure, and entrepreneurship!

Article edited with the help of Steve Keil.