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Home Secretary’s Speech on Immigration Reform

An Agenda for Change

In a major speech on UK immigration policy, the Home Secretary today set out her plans for continued reform of the country’s immigration system, stating that the government has a democratic mandate to “fix the system”.

Describing previous governments’ immigration policies as a “democratic outlier”, Priti Patel promised to finally address public concerns about immigration that had been “ignored or derided” by previous administrations.

Referring to the 2016 EU referendum and the 2019 general election as the sources of a fresh government mandate to address the subject, she promised to “take back control” of immigration. The fact that the UK is now outside the European free movement system, she says, means that a “fair, firm and rational” approach can be designed and implemented. She cited the UK’s new post-Brexit points-based system, and the reform of 21 routes of entry to the country as evidence of the government’s commitment to wholesale change.

In truth, there were no announcements in the speech that have not previously been highlighted or signalled. The rhetoric of “fixing the system” and implementing “fair but firm” policies, has been adopted by many Home Secretaries over the course of the last two decades.

The most important takeaways from the speech include:

Digitisation of the borders – implementing a system of pre-travel authorisation in the form of Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETA), similar to the US ESTA system, that will facilitate entry and enable government to monitor numbers of arrivals and departures, whilst identifying risk “upstream”. The government aims to have a fully digital border within five years. Primary legislation will be required to give effect to this major change.

Balancing the policy by acknowledging that communities do not want to see change beyond recognition whilst also recognising that immigration enriches the nation.

Reforming British nationality law for the first time since 1983.

Reducing incentives for illegal migration and enforcing removals of those with no right to be in the country.

Prioritising skills and talent – seeking to attract the most qualified, skilled and innovative individuals from around the world as part of the “Global Britain” policy.

Simplifying the sponsorship process to give employers access to the workers they need to enable business to flourish.

EU Settlement Scheme – ensuring that qualifying EU citizens apply before the scheme closes at the end of June. By April there had been 5.4 million applications under EUSS.

Ensuring that security remains at the heart of the government’s  new plan for immigration.

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