Illustrative photo Marcin Poltorak still has the one-way bus ticket that took him from Krakow, Poland, to Manchester in August 2004, aged 26. "The plan was to work for two years then go back and buy a house," he recalls. Poltorak found a job in a slaughterhouse in the northern town of Clitheroe and, 17 years later, remains in the UK: "It was so much better here," he says. When prime minister Tony Blair opened Britain's doors to workers from eight former communist states in central and eastern Europe that year, it was a big decision with huge ramifications. Over the next decade, Britain's economy and society were transformed by hundreds of thousands of arrivals from Poland, Lithuania and elsewhere. At its peak, the number of European migrants in the UK was by some estimates five million or higher, from a population estimated to be more than 66 million. London's Victoria coach station was packed with people starting a new life and soon the country's bars, hotels and farms spoke with different accents. "We've got to be honest with ourselves," Blair tells the Financial Times. "We pursued an open labour-market policy because, at the time, our economy was booming and… Read full this story
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