Good Will Hunting at the Conservative Party Conference
| Gemma Hyslop

Good Will Hunting at the Conservative Party Conference

The Conservative Party Conference shall take place from Sunday 2 October to Wednesday 5 October 2016. According to the Spectator, there have been a record-breaking number of registrations for the Conference so the agenda has doubtless been hotly debated.

Following the usual welcome speech, the Conference shall immediately direct its attention to the EU referendum results in a presentation called “Global Britain – making a  success of Brexit.”

Whilst the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the Secretary of State for International Development and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs shall participate in this presentation, the Minister of State for Immigration is not included.

Indeed, Robert Goodwill, the newly appointed Minster of State for Immigration is not scheduled to participate in any of the main Conference speeches.

So as and when we hear from him, what are the main points that Mr. Goodwill should address?

The status of European nationals already in the UK

3.5 million European nationals currently reside in the UK. Confirmation or otherwise that their legal status shall be protected post-Brexit is urgently needed.

David Davis has previously hinted that the status of those EU nationals already in the UK shall be secure, echoing the commitment made by the official Vote Leave company to protect the status of EU nationals. However, when giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 6 September, Mr. Goodwill declined to provide such a concrete commitment. 

The situation remains opaque at best so a firm assurance from the Immigration Minister would be gratefully received.

A Comprehensive Immigration Review

In his Ministerial Statement of 5 September 2016, David Davis stated that the government would “create an immigration system that allows us to control numbers and encourage the brightest and the best to come to this country.”

Whilst Theresa May has rejected the idea of an Australian-style Points Based System, it seems likely that a comprehensive immigration review will take place as part of the Brexit process.

This in itself raises immediate questions – what form will this review take and when? Who will be consulted and what opportunity will there be for businesses to manifest their concerns about their affected work forces, both European nationals in the UK and vice versa?

All of these are important topics on which the business community needs visibility.

Net Migration Target

Since Theresa May became Prime Minister, she and her cabinet have taken steps to distance themselves from the Net Migration Target, which became so burdensome for David Cameron.

Amber Rudd, Ms. May’s successor as Home Secretary has spoken of the Government’s “aim” to reduce net migration to “sustainable levels” and whilst net migration actually fell in the most recent figures, the change was far too small to be deemed a success.

Will the Net Migration Target finally be exorcised, or will its spectre continue to hang over the cabinet and subsequent immigration policy?

Clarity on these three key issues would be a welcome outcome of the Conference. However, even with the best will in the world, that may prove difficult.