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Post Brexit, EU/non-EU citizens will have same immigration rights, says Theresa May

Vidya Ram London | Updated on September 18, 2018 Published on September 17, 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May   -  Reuters

“What we will be doing is putting forward a set of rules for people from the EU and people from outside the EU.”

EU and non-EU citizens, including those from India, Australia and beyond, could have the same immigration rights after Brexit, British Prime Minister Theresa May indicated on Monday.

During an interview with BBC Radio 4, the Prime Minister, when asked whether the EU would get a preferential deal on immigration rights to be able to travel to the UK more easily, said that one of the messages from the referendum was that people “didn’t want a situation where they could see people coming having those automatic rights to travel to the UK and a set of rules for people outside the EU… What we will be doing is putting forward a set of rules for people from the European Union and people from outside the EU.”

The issue of preferential rights for EU citizens has been a controversial issue throughout the referendum campaign and afterwards.

Better access

During the referendum campaign, some politicians courted voters from the South Asian diaspora with promises that Brexit — by enabling Britain to restrict the rights of EU citizens to travel to the UK — could provide the government with the capacity to ease rules for those from non-EU countries.

Until recently, the Prime minister had appeared to keep the possibility for preferential rights for EU citizens open. “We will decide who will come into this country,” she said on Monday.

In a recent interview with Sky News, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said it was not a question of increasing immigration for non-EU citizens but to ensure that a “level playing field” was created to ensure that non-EU citizens would have a “better chance of getting access” to the UK within the government’s immigration targets.

Growing pressure

The Prime Minister has faced growing pressure over her Brexit plan — which has come to be dubbed as the “Chequers Plan” (after the location at which it was forged) that would result in Britain maintaining a common rulebook for goods, including agricultural products, with the EU after Brexit. However, the plan faced criticism from within her own party, and triggered the resignation of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who recently referred to her plans as a “suicide vest.”

The Prime Minister’s language had to be seen as nothing but rhetoric, says Lord Karan Bilimoria, a cross-bench member of the House of Lords, and a vocal critic of the government’s Brexit strategy, who is part of the growing push for putting the terms of the government’s Brexit deal to the British people in a second referendum.

He argues that the government will have little choice but to maintain preferential access for EU citizens, given the practical needs of the UK economy, while at the same time making concessions that would open up immigration policy to non-EU countries. “This has to be seen in the same light as May’s wider approach to Brexit, and the so-called three red lines she set, which are now looking decidedly faded pink.”

Published on September 17, 2018
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