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Conservative manifesto commitments on immigration, the EU and human rights

Standing at the door to No 10, David Cameron stated that he would form a majority government and implement the Conservative Party manifesto “in full”. The moderating influence of the Liberal Democrats has been extinguished. The nationalist isolationism of the Scots and the SNP renders them irrelevant in UK politics for the next five years. Meanwhile, the disaffected UKIP vote wounded Labour, not the Conservatives, piling pressure on the next Labour leader to address UKIP concerns more directly than Ed Miliband. What does all this mean for immigration law over the next five years?

In summary, the Human Rights Act will be scrapped and there will be a referendum on membership of the EU. The carcass of legal aid will be boiled up for soup. ‘Deport first, appeal later’ provisions for foreign criminals will be extended to all appeals and judicial review applications other than asylum claims, we are told. Satellite tracking for all foreign criminals subject to deportation proceedings will be introduced. ‘Papers, please’ immigration status checks by landlords will be rolled out from the pilot zone in the West Midlands. Tougher language tests will be implemented for family members.

The cap on skilled migrants from outside the EU will be retained at the current level of 20,700 throughout the next Parliament and there will be further “reforms” to Tier 4 and student immigration rules, including the closing of London satellite university campuses.

Below I set out the full text of what we can expect, taken directly from the Conservative Manifesto.

Controlled immigration that benefits Britain

Our commitment to you:

Our plan to control immigration will put you, your family and the British people first. We will reduce the number of people coming to our country with tough new welfare conditions and robust enforcement. We will:

  • keep our ambition of delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands
  • control migration from the European Union, by reforming welfare rules
  • clamp down on illegal immigration and abuse of the Minimum Wage
  • enhance our border security and strengthen the enforcement of immigration rules
  • develop a fund to ease pressure on local areas and public services.

Conservatives believe in controlled immigration, not mass immigration. Immigration brings real benefits to Britain – to our economy, our culture and our national life. We will always be a party that is open, outward- looking and welcoming to people from all around the world. We also know that immigration must be controlled. When immigration is out of control, it puts pressure on schools, hospitals and transport; and it can cause social pressures if communities find it hard to integrate.

We will always be a party that is open, outward- looking and welcoming to people from all around the world

Between 1997 and 2009, under the last Labour Government, we had the largest influx of people Britain had ever seen. Their open borders policy, combined with their failure to reform welfare, meant that for years over 90 percent of employment growth in this country was accounted for by foreign nationals – even though there were 1.4 million people who spent most of the 2000s living on out-of-work benefits. For the past five years, we have been working to turn around the situation we inherited.

Since 2010, we have stripped more than 850 bogus colleges of their rights to sponsor foreign students; installed proper exit checks at our borders; cracked down on illegal working and sham marriages; made it harder for people to live in the UK illegally, by restricting their access to bank accounts, driving licences and private housing; and reduced the number of appeal routes to stop people clogging up our courts with spurious attempts to remain in the country. All of this has made a difference. Immigration from outside the EU has come down since 2010.

Non-EU migration cut by 13 per cent – and economic migration from outside the EU capped

We have seen many more people from the EU coming to Britain than originally anticipated, principally because our economy has been growing so much more rapidly and creating more jobs than other EU countries. As a result, our action has not been enough to cut annual net migration to the tens of thousands. That ambition remains the right one. But it is clearly going to take more time, more work and more difficult long-term decisions to achieve. Continuing this vital work will be our priority over the next five years.

We will negotiate new rules with the EU, so that people will have to be earning here for a number of years before they can claim benefits, including the tax credits that top up low wages. Instead of something-for- nothing, we will build a system based on the principle of something-for-something. We will then put these changes to the British people in a straight in-out referendum on our membership of the European Union by the end of 2017. At the same time, we will continue to strengthen our borders, improve the enforcement of our immigration laws and act to make sure people leave at the end of their visas. Across the spectrum, from the student route to the family and work routes, we will build a system that truly puts you, your family and the British people first.

Our plan of action:

We will regain control of EU migration by reforming welfare rules

Tougher tests for migrants before they can claim benefits

Changes to welfare to cut EU migration will be an absolute requirement in the renegotiation. We have already banned housing benefit for EU jobseekers, and restricted other benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance. We will insist that EU migrants who want to claim tax credits and child benefit must live here and contribute to our country for a minimum of four years. This will reduce the financial incentive for lower-paid, lower- skilled workers to come to Britain. We will introduce a new residency requirement for social housing, so that EU migrants cannot even be considered for a council house unless they have been living in an area for at least four years. If an EU migrant’s child is living abroad, then they should receive no child benefit or child tax credit, no matter how long they have worked in the UK and no matter how much tax they have paid. To reduce the numbers of EU migrants coming to Britain, we will end the ability of EU jobseekers to claim any job-seeking benefits at all. And if jobseekers have not found a job within six months, they will be required to leave.

We will tackle criminality and abuse of free movement

We will negotiate with the EU to introduce stronger powers to deport criminals and stop them coming back, and tougher and longer re-entry bans for all those who abuse free movement. We want to toughen requirements for non-EU spouses to join EU citizens, including with an income threshold and English language test. And when new countries are admitted to the EU in future, we will insist that free movement cannot apply to those new members until their economies have converged much more closely with existing Member States.

We will continue to cut immigration from outside the EU

We have already capped the level of skilled economic migration from outside the EU. We will maintain our cap at 20,700 during the next Parliament. This will ensure that we only grant visas to those who have the skills we really need in our economy. We will reform the student visa system with new measures to tackle abuse and reduce the numbers of students overstaying once their visas expire. Our action will include clamping down on the number of so-called ‘satellite campuses’ opened in London by universities located elsewhere in the UK, and reviewing the highly trusted sponsor system for student visas. And as the introduction of exit checks will allow us to place more responsibility on visa sponsors for migrants who overstay, we will introduce targeted sanctions for those colleges or businesses that fail to ensure that migrants comply with the terms of their visa.

We will strengthen the enforcement of immigration rules

We have introduced a ‘deport first, appeal later’ rule for foreign national offenders. We will now remove even more illegal immigrants by extending this rule to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews, including where a so-called right to family life is involved, apart from asylum claims. We will also implement a new removals strategy to take away opportunities for spurious legal challenge and opportunities to abscond. We will introduce satellite tracking for every foreign national offender subject to an outstanding deportation order or deportation proceedings. And we will implement the requirement for all landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants.

We will tackle people trafficking and exploitation

We have already re-introduced a proper system of exit checks across the country, passed a Modern Slavery Act that will protect people from exploitation, and quadrupled the fines for unscrupulous employers who undercut the Minimum Wage. Now we will introduce tougher labour market regulation to tackle illegal working and exploitation. To crack down further on illegal working, we will harness data from multiple agencies, including Exit Checks data, to identify illegal immigrants and businesses that employ illegal workers. And to incentivise tougher action on employers who do not pay the minimum wage, we will allow inspection teams to reinvest more of the money raised by fines levied on employers.

We will ease pressure on public services and your local community

We will protect British values and our way of life

We are taking unprecedented action to tackle health tourism and will recover up to £500 million from migrants who use the NHS by the middle of the next Parliament. To help communities experiencing high and unexpected volumes of immigration, we will introduce a new Controlling Migration Fund to ease pressures on services and to pay for additional immigration enforcement. To prevent sectors becoming partially or wholly reliant on foreign workers, we will require those regularly utilising the Shortage Occupation List, under which they can bring skilled foreign workers into the UK, to provide long-term plans for training British workers.

We will promote integration and British values

Being able to speak English is a fundamental part of integrating into our society. We have introduced tough new language tests for migrants and ensured councils reduce spending on translation services. Next, we will legislate to ensure that every public sector worker operating in a customer-facing role must speak fluent English. And to encourage better integration into our society, we will also require those coming to Britain on a family visa with only basic English to become more fluent over time, with new language tests for those seeking a visa extension.

Fighting crime and standing up for victims

Our commitment to you:

Your local area should be a safe place to grow up, work, raise a family and retire. We will continue to cut crime and make your community safer. We will:

  • finish the job of police reform, so you can have more confidence that your local policing team is working effectively
  • toughen sentencing and reform the prison system, so dangerous criminals are kept off your streets
  • support victims, so that the most vulnerable in our society get the support they deserve.
  • scrap the Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights, so that foreign criminals can be more easily deported from Britain.

We will reform human rights law and our legal system

We will scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights

We have stopped prisoners from having the vote, and have deported suspected terrorists such as Abu Qatada, despite all the problems created by Labour’s human rights laws. The next Conservative Government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights. This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK. We will continue the £375 million modernisation of our courts system, reducing delay and frustration for the public. And we will continue to review our legal aid systems, so they can continue to provide access to justice in an efficient way.

Real change in our relationship with the European Union

Our commitment to you:

For too long, your voice has been ignored on Europe. We will:

  • give you a say over whether we should stay in or leave the EU, with an in-out referendum
  • by the end of 2017
  • commit to keeping the pound and staying out of the Eurozone
  • reform the workings of the EU, which is too big, too bossy and too bureaucratic
  • reclaim power from Brussels on your behalf and safeguard British interests in the Single Market
  • back businesses to create jobs in Britain by completing ambitious trade deals and reducing red tape.

The EU needs to change. And it is time for the British people – not politicians – to have their say. Only the Conservative Party will deliver real change and real choice on Europe, with an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.

Labour failed to give you a choice on the EU. They handed over major new powers to Brussels without your consent, and gave away £7 billion of the British rebate. We have taken action in Europe to promote your economic security. We cut the EU budget for the first time ever, saving British taxpayers £8.15 billion. We took Britain out of Eurozone bailouts, including for Greece – the first ever return of powers from Brussels. Our Prime Minister vetoed a new EU treaty that would have damaged Britain’s interests. And we have pursued a bold, positive, pro-business agenda, exempting smallest businesses from red tape, promoting free trade, and pushing to extend the Single Market to new sectors, like digital.

We believe in letting the people decide: so we will hold an in-out referendum on our membership of the EU before the end of 2017.

But there is much more to do. The EU is too bureaucratic and too undemocratic. It interferes too much in our daily lives, and the scale of migration triggered by new members joining in recent years has had a real impact on local communities. We are clear about what we want from Europe. We say: yes to the Single Market. Yes to turbo- charging free trade. Yes to working together where we are stronger together than alone. Yes to a family of nation states, all part of a European Union – but whose interests, crucially, are guaranteed whether inside the Euro or out. No to ‘ever closer union.’ No to a constant flow of power to Brussels. No to unnecessary interference. And no, of course, to the Euro, to participation in Eurozone bail-outs or notions like a European Army.

It will be a fundamental principle of a future Conservative Government that membership of the European Union depends on the consent of the British people – and in recent years that consent has worn wafer-thin. That’s why, after the election, we will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in Europe, and then ask the British people whether they want to stay in the EU on this reformed basis or leave. David Cameron has committed that he will only lead a government that offers an in-out referendum. We will hold that in-out referendum before the end of 2017 and respect the outcome.

So the choice at this election is clear: Labour and the Liberal Democrats won’t give you a say over the EU. UKIP can’t give you a say. Only the Conservative Party will deliver real change in Europe – and only the Conservatives can and will deliver an in-out referendum.

Our plan of action:

We will let you decide whether to stay in or leave the EU

We will legislate in the first session of the next Parliament for an in-out referendum to be held on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. We will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in the EU. And then we will ask the British people whether they want to stay in on this basis, or leave. We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome.

We will protect Britain’s economy

We will protect our economy from any further integration of the Eurozone. The integration of the Eurozone has raised acute questions for non-Eurozone countries like the United Kingdom. We benefit from the Single Market and do not want to stand in the way of the Eurozone resolving its difficulties. Indeed, given the trade between Britain and the Eurozone countries we want to see these economies returning to growth. But we will not let the integration of the Eurozone jeopardise the integrity of the Single Market or in any way disadvantage the UK.

We will reclaim powers from Brussels

We want to see powers flowing away from Brussels, not to it. We have already taken action to return around 100 powers, but we want to go further. We want national parliaments to be able to work together to block unwanted European legislation. And we want an end to our commitment to an ‘ever closer union,’ as enshrined in David Cameron vetoed a new EU Treaty that would have damaged Britain’s interests – the first time in history that a British Prime Minister has done so the Treaty to which every EU country has to sign up. Furthermore, we will continue to ensure that defence policy remains firmly under British national control, maintaining NATO and the transatlantic relationship as the cornerstones of our defence and security policy.

We will scrap the Human Rights Act

We will scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights which will restore common sense to the application of human rights in the UK. The Bill will remain faithful to the basic principles of human
rights, which we signed up to in the original European Convention on Human Rights. It will protect basic rights, like the right to a fair trial, and the right to life, which are an essential part of a modern democratic society. But it will reverse the mission creep that has meant human rights law being used for more and more purposes, and often with little regard for the rights of wider society. Among other things the Bill will stop terrorists and other serious foreign criminals who pose a threat to our society from using spurious human rights arguments to prevent deportation.

We will take action in Europe to make you better off

We want an EU that helps Britain move ahead, not one that holds us back. We have already succeeded in exempting our smallest businesses from new EU regulations, and kicked-off negotiations for a massive EU trade deal with the USA, which could be worth billions of pounds to the UK economy. We will build on this. We want to preserve the integrity of the Single Market, by insisting on protections for those countries that have kept their own currencies. We want to expand the Single Market, breaking down the remaining barriers to trade and ensuring that new sectors are opened up to British firms. We want to ensure that new rules target unscrupulous behaviour in the financial services industry, while safeguarding Britain as a global centre of excellence in finance. So we will resist EU attempts to restrict legitimate financial services activities. We will press for lower EU spending, further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and Structural Funds, and for EU money to be focused on promoting jobs and growth.

Colin Yeo
Colin Yeo A barrister specialising in UK immigration law at Garden Court Chambers in London, I have been practising in immigration law for 15 years. I am passionate about immigration law and founded and edit the Free Movement immigration law blog.

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