British Prime Minister Theresa May is driving a further wedge between the UK and the European Union, by taking a tough stance on the movement of refugees and migrants in the continent.
According to the Financial Times, later on Monday, May will tell the United Nations General Assembly — hosted by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York — and a separate summit of world leaders hosted by President Barack Obama, that refugees should not be able to travel on from the first safe country they reach.
By preventing onward travel for migrants, May argues, it will not only make it far easier for refugees to eventually return home, but also protect them from people trafficking. Implementing such a policy will also emphasise “the responsibility [of all countries] to manage borders to reduce onward flows of illegal and uncontrolled migration,” May will say later in the day.
“More people are displaced than at any point in modern history” meaning that the world needs “a new, more effective global approach to manage migration,” May said prior to the summit, according to the FT.
Uncontrolled migration undermines public confidence in “the economic benefits of legal and controlled migration,” she added.
May’s approach to migration is in stark contrast to that of most of the European Union, particularly Germany, which has welcomed migrants fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere into the country with open arms last year. Around one million people have since come to Germany as a result of the policy, travelling across Europe, often on foot, to reach the country.
There are critics of Germany’s open door policy, however, with Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban describing chancellor Angela Merkel’s actions as “self-destructive and naive” during a summit of EU leaders — which excluded the United Kingdom — in Bratislava, Slovakia last week.
Migration has been one of the key issues discussed in the UK since the country voted to leave the European Union in June. Many who voted for Brexit did so on the assumption that Brexit would mean curbs on migration into the UK, and in particular, bring an end to the total freedom of movement enjoyed by EU citizens in the 28-nation bloc.
However, it is looking increasingly likely that the UK will be forced to compromise in some respect on the movement of people in order to retain the economic benefits — such as inclusion in the European single market — it currently enjoys.
On Saturday, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said that the core group of Eastern European states in the EU, known as the V4, will veto any Brexit deal that does not include
the right of their citizens to live and work in the UK. “Unless we feel a guarantee that these people [living and working in Britain] are equal, we will veto any agreement between the EU and Britain,” Fico said.
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