Tuesday

15th Oct 2019

British ministers take aim at EU migrants

  • Brexit talks due to start next March (Photo: Jaypeg)

UK ministers spoke of hiring “British citizens first” and of deporting “EU criminals” on the third day of a Tory party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday (4 October).

Amber Rudd, the home secretary, said she would get immigration down to just tens of thousands of people a year because that was the “clear message” of what British people wanted from the Brexit referendum.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

She said she would “ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do”.

“I want us to look again at whether our immigration system provides the right incentives for businesses to invest in British workers”, she said.

She promised a crackdown on companies, such as minicab firms, that hire illegal migrants, and on landlords that rent properties to people without papers.

She indicated that in future, only foreign students who graduated at top universities such as Oxford or Cambridge would be able to stay and work in the UK.

She also said that “we will make it easier to deport EU criminals, aligning their fortunes more closely with those from outside the EU … for the first time, we will deport EU nationals that repeatedly commit so-called minor crimes in this country”.

David Davis, the minister in charge of Brexit talks, made similar promises.

He said his job would be to “get the powers back” on immigration and raised the prospect of skills-based work permits for migrants.

“Typically the way work permits work in other countries, is you try to get a British citizen first and if you haven’t you have got to do that first. There will be tests like that”, he told the party congress in his speech.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, pledged to reduce the number of foreign workers in the National Health Service by training 1,500 more British doctors each year.

“Currently a quarter of our doctors come from overseas … When it comes to those that are EU nationals, we’ve been clear we want them to be able to stay post-Brexit”, he said.

But he added that, in future, “we will make the NHS self-sufficient in doctors” so that there “will be more home grown doctors … looking after you and your family”.

Applause and tumbling pound

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, also repeated his threat to veto EU defence integration by the other 27 member states so long as the UK remained a member.

“We will go on blocking an EU army, which would simply undermine Nato”, he said.

Tuesday’s speeches came after British prime minister, Theresa May, on Sunday also promised to put British "sovereignty" on immigration ahead of EU single market access in future talks.

Her words were greeted with applause at the Tory event and with dismay on the financial markets, which sent the value of the British pound tumbling to another historic low.

She reiterated her position on a BBC radio show on Tuesday morning, adding: “Once we leave the EU there will be the opportunity to control movements coming from the European Union”.

Her strong stance was welcomed by Liam Fox, the British trade secretary.

Reacting to May’s speech on British sovereignty, he said: “I can't tell you how long I have waited to hear a prime minister deliver a speech on Europe that Theresa May delivered … All my political life I have waited for this moment”.

No mandate to cut links

The exit talks are to start in March and last at least two years, after which Britain would lose privileged access to EU markets unless there is a new deal.

EU leaders have said the UK cannot have access without letting in migrant workers, while urging Britain to tone down its anti-European rhetoric.

Not all Tory MPs were equally triumphalist in Birmingham, however.

Noting that the referendum was decided by a narrow margin, Daniel Hannan, a Tory MEP and a long time advocate of leaving the EU, told press the party had no mandate to cut “all links” with Europe.

"It is a mandate for a phased repatriation of power within the context of containing military security and commercial ties. I think it is possible to satisfy most people," he said.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Sterling crisis reflects May’s dilemma

Continued uncertainty and confusion over what Brexit might mean sees the pound fall to its lowest levels in 30 years, leaving winter-escaping holidays increasingly out of reach of many Britons.

Johnson finally unveils UK's Brexit border 'compromise'

British PM Boris Johnson proposes regulatory alignment between the EU and Northern Ireland to avoid most of the checks at the border, but wants the province to leave the EU's customs union when the UK does.

News in Brief

  1. OSCE: Polish elections spoiled by 'homophobic rhetoric'
  2. Barcelona airport clashes after Catalan leaders jailed
  3. US: Erdogan responsible for possible Isis 'resurgence'
  4. Irish foreign minister: Brexit deal 'possible this week'
  5. UK refuses to join EU arms ban on Turkey
  6. Denmark plans to strip foreign fighters of citizenship
  7. Spain issues European arrest warrant for Puigdemont
  8. Possible delay to launch of new EU commission

Opinion

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us