Sunday

28th May 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

EU gives mandate for Barnier to take on Brexit

In its final preparatory act before Brexit talks begin, the EU has officially given the negotiating mandate to Michel Barnier. The French politician said he would like to start negotiations on the week of 19 June.

EU wants Brexit talks to start the day after UK vote

EU negotiator Michel Barnier urged negotiations to begin as soon as possible, while European Council chief Donald Tusk said the EU-27's red lines will be updated once talks can move on from the divorce to the future relationship.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Tories on manoeuvres, as Labour wakes from Brexit slumber

In Labour's programme for the June election, Jeremy Corbyn claims there will be no second EU referendum and promises a form of associate membership with the EU. For the moment, it’s as far as his party can go.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms