After over three years in the role, former Home Secretary Priti Patel has been replaced. Her successor, Suella Braverman, represents something of a continuity figure in the role. Like Patel, she is both firmly on the right of the Conservative Party and a Brexiteer.


Formerly the Attorney General, some of Braverman’s most well-known views include withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights as well as supporting the sending of cross-channel migrants to Rwanda. She ran for the leadership in the most recent Conservative leadership contest and was eliminated in the second round with 27 votes.


But what can we expect from Braverman as Home Secretary and how will the Patel era be remembered?


Priti Patel – did she take back control?


Priti Patel’s time as Home Secretary under Boris Johnson’s premiership is likely be remembered as a tumultuous period. In her resignation letter, the former Home Secretary outlined some of her main achievements in the role as ending free movement and “taking back control of our borders” – a clear nod to Brexit and the reform to immigration.


But is it right to say that Britain has taken back control of its borders?


While EU immigration has plummeted, non-EU immigration to the UK reached its highest level ever recorded in December 2019.  Furthermore, the unprecedented rise in small boat crossings over the past few years occurred almost exclusively under Patel.


When Patel was appointed in July 2019, the beginning of the Johnson premiership, the number of people crossing the English Channel in a small boat was fairly negligible, barely reaching 500. By the end of her time as Home Secretary in August 2022, the monthly total was 8,700 – the highest month total on record.


In order to deal with this, the government signed what Patel describes as a “world-first Migration and Economic Development Partnership” with Rwanda. However, enforced and voluntary returns are now at an near all-time low, decreasing from 45,000 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2021.


Other significant immigration policies and events which occurred with Patel as Home Secretary included the exit of Britain from the European Union in January 2020. This marked the advent of the points-based immigration system and the end of free movement with Europe, a substantial shift in immigration policy. This means that there is a blanket approach towards immigration regardless of where immigrants come from. To work in the UK, applicants require 70 points.


The Nationality and Border Act was another significant piece of legislation introduced by Patel. Under it a two-tier asylum system was introduced, making it so that those who make asylum claims after travelling through a third country such as France are inadmissible, with some exceptions.


Another legacy of Patel’s time as Home Secretary is the asylum backlog, which under her stewardship has gone from 40,000 to over 120,000. At the same time, the success rate for initial asylum applications actually rose to a new high of 76%, increasing from 25% in 2010. While Patel frequently railed against those crossing the Channel in small boats, the reality is that the vast majority of them were genuine refugees.


Finally, the Windrush compensation scheme which arose out of the Windrush scandal in 2018 has been largely unsuccessful. The Wendy Williams report published in March 2022 found that the Home Office had failed to take a more compassionate approach and had broken pledges to transform its culture.


Suella Braverman – a more extreme Home Secretary than Patel?


Despite Truss’s government being expected to take a more relaxed approach towards legal immigration, the same cannot be said for those who arrive as asylum seekers or illegally.


In recent days, the new Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been outspoken in interviews by saying that Britain has too many low-skilled migrants and international students who bring over dependants. This is despite the fact that under the new points-based immigration system, there is no route for low-skilled workers. It also appears to contradict recent briefings from the government that immigration rules will be loosened under the new Prime Minister Liz Truss as part of her ‘growth plan’, which recently u-turned on its cut to the top rate of tax.


In her speech at the Conservative Party conference, Braverman set out plans to bar those crossing the English Channel from claiming asylum in the UK. This would be a clear breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and the 1951 Refugee Convention. Braverman is also strongly supportive of the Rwanda plan introduced by Priti Patel, stating “I would love to have a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession.” Judges are expected to rule on both High Court challenges to the Rwanda policy later this month.


Braverman was a fierce proponent of the British Bill of Rights proposed by Dominic Raab which would have given the UK Supreme Court legal supremacy over the European Court of Human Rights. One of its aims was to make it easier for the UK to deport immigrants and asylum seekers without facing legal challenges from European courts. Braverman has mentioned in recent days how she wishes to bring down immigration levels to “tens of thousands”, with the figure currently standing at 239,000.


However, the Truss government have recently ridden back on the idea of the British Bill of Rights, and it seems unlikely to go ahead at this moment in time. You can find out more about the British Bill of Rights here.


Despite resistance from the new Home Secretary, Prime Minister Liz Truss has ordered a review of the shortage occupation list, which would allow certain industries to bring in staff from overseas. This is in response to the UK’s labour shortage, which has followed the exit of the UK from the European Union.


Our thoughts


The UK’s hard-line approach towards immigration is likely to get tougher under Braverman, whose rhetoric in recent days has been harsh towards refugees, modern slavery victims, and low-skilled workers. With the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary seemingly at odds over immigration levels, it remains to be seen who will win this particular battle.


As usual, Lisa’s Law will bring you all the big news with regards to immigration. The biggest policy announcement so far from Braverman has been that she plans to go further than Patel by bringing in legislation banning those who enter the UK illegally from claiming asylum. It remains to be seen what legislation will be introduced over the next few months.


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