Sunday

17th Dec 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

Brexit: EU trade talks to start in April

Talks on future trade relations to start mid-April, as Brussels waits for London to say what sort of relationship it wants, but last week's deal now 'Davis-proofed'.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives