What Will Theresa May Do About Brexit and Immigration?
By Oshin Shahiean of OTS Solicitors
Yesterday, David Cameron faced his last question time in the Commons before heading to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation to Her Majesty, the Queen.
From this point, Teresa May will be our Prime Minister.
Presiding over arguably the worst crisis the country has faced since World War II, Ms May’s first job has been to name her Cabinet.
Even the most experienced political journalists admit that they know very little about Teresa May. She is fiercely private and unlike her predecessor, not one to mix with ‘political chums’ in and outside Westminster.
To gain any insight into how our new Prime Minister will manage Britain leaving the EU, the only avenue we can explore is her past. Fortunately, Ms May has had years of political experience that we can examine; 20 years as an MP and is the second-longest serving Home Secretary in the last 100 years.
Her biggest challenge; when to trigger Article 50. How to negotiate with an international body hell-bent on not capitulating. Reassuring a skittish financial market and two million EU nationals who are fearful of their residence status.
Ms May was fairly silent during the entire Brexit campaign. Officially, she was in the Remain camp, but on hearing that she would lead the Conservative Party after Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the race, she has stated, “Brexit means Brexit…and we’re going to make a success of it”.
One insider parliamentary insider describes our new PM as a formidable negotiator with great attention to detail – someone who, perhaps surprisingly, “cares more about the little people than the big ones”. She will need all those negotiating skills to deliver on her promise of making Brexit a positive move for the country; the hardliners in Brussels are wary of making any concessions in the negotiations that will follow our official exit, lest it encourages other countries to follow suit.
As Home Secretary, Theresa may has traditionally taken a hard line on Immigration. Her real views were expressed at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2015, when she dedicated most of her time on the platform to the subject of Immigration.
In her speech to the Tory party faithful, she stated that although she had sympathy for the 1.7 million souls who had fled Syria, the British Government’s role should only extend to providing aid to those who stayed in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, not to those who have fled to Europe.
She defended David Cameron’s decision to only take 5,000 refugees per year and criticised German Chancellor, Angela Merkel for her decision to take in 800,000 Asylum seekers. This is a move she may come to regret since Chancellor Merkel will lead Europe’s most powerful nation when Britain leaves the EU.
“There are millions of people in poorer countries who would love to live in Britain, and there is a limit to the amount of Immigration any country can and should take. We must have an Immigration system that allows us to control who comes into our country" she said.
"Britain does not need net Immigration in the hundreds of thousands every year… not every person coming to Britain right now is a skilled electrician, engineer or doctor… there is no case, in the national interest, for Immigration on the scale we have experienced over the last decade.”
She then stated that the way to limit further Immigration was to cut benefits, make Asylum harder to obtain and check to see foreign students left the country once they had completed their studies. Although she did not herself propose the target of reducing net migration to tens of thousands, but she has repeatedly committed herself to trying to meet it.
Her two most controversial moves designed to curb Immigration were the introduction of the:
- £18,600 threshold that must be met by persons settled in the UK to bring their spouse and children into the country to live with them; and
- £35,000 wage threshold that anyone wanting to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain must obtain.
Both these policies have been condemned by various migrant pressure groups and a long-running court case on the spousal maintenance threshold is currently being deliberated in the Supreme Court.
At a Conservative Party conference in 2001, Ms May stated:
Oct 2011 to party conference:
“We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act. The violent drug dealer who cannot be sent home because his daughter – for whom he pays no maintenance – lives here. The robber who cannot be removed because he has a girlfriend. The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat.
“This is why I remain of the view that the Human Rights Act needs to go... And I can today announce that we will change the Immigration rules to ensure that the misinterpretation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – the right to a family life – no longer prevents the deportation of people who shouldn’t be here.
Rachel Logan, Amnesty’s legal programme director, said at the time, “Mrs May’s proposal to tear away from the European Convention on Human Rights would strike at the very architecture of international protections, and betray the British people who built the convention at the end of the Second World War.
“The Convention has done so much for the rights of the free press, gay people, women, people with disabilities and other ordinary people here and across Europe.
EU nationals living in the UK
The fate of the three million or so EU nationals living in the UK has been a controversial point for Theresa May, who apart from her statements on this issue has not put a foot wrong in her campaign to become the next British PM.
Described by some commentators as ‘repulsive’, her statement that she would not guarantee the rights of EU nationals currently living and working in the UK until the EU confirms they will allow the approximately two million British nationals residing in the EU post-Brexit to remain, has led to accusations of her using EU nationals as ‘bargaining chips’.
Ms May does not seem to realise the repugnancy of the idea of the British government exiling millions of European families and the EU booting out thousands of Spanish retirees. Even with all their twisting of facts and mis-representations, the Leave campaign never dared to suggest deportation of EU citizens.
Wait and see
The country will now get a chance to observe over the coming weeks the type of Prime Minster Theresa May will be. Meanwhile, EU nationals concerned about their status need to apply for permanent residence cards and British Citizenship as soon as possible to solidify their legal right to remain in the UK.
OTS Solicitors is a fully regulated, highly regarded law firm, based in the centre of London. Our solicitors are considered to be some of the best Immigration experts in the UK. We are regularly called on by the media to make comments on developments in Immigration law. To make an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors in relation to obtaining a UK permanent residence Card or British Citizenship, please phone us on 0203 959 9123.