Another British hurdle: how to handle asylum claims?

The second article in the weekly series ‘The EU-UK negotiations – clash of titans?’ which gives you access to the future of EU-UK relations and their economic repercussions, both nationally and internationally.
More than 4,100 people have reached Britain by crossing the Channel in small boats so far this year. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

With Brexit talks restarting next week, tensions between Brussels and UK are rising. The parties met in Brussels on August 17 in order to discuss politically charged topics like how to handle asylum claims after the end of the transition period. However, considering the recent events, the British government plans to double down on its demands to evict failed asylum seeks from British shores. According to FT, home secretary Priti Patel attempted to negotiate with Brussels earlier this year but her demands fell on deaf ears. On August 17, EU negotiators have rejected a British request for a migration pact that would allow the government to return asylum seekers to other European countries.

Under the EU’s Dublin Convention, refugees claiming asylum can be sent back to the member state where their original claims are registered. However, the French government has consistently refused to acknowledge the asylum seekers arriving to Britain from their coast. This was met with widespread criticism from the English media and complicated the Brexit negotiations from both legal and moral perspectives. Following a spike in boat arrivals from France, the situation has become so dire that the UK government has been forced to consider military intervention (read more here) to ensure that illegal asylum seekers are kept at bay. Recently, a group of asylum seekers facing removal have been building a legal case in an attempt to halt the Home Office from evicting them. In fact, they successfully managed to dodge pre-action protocols, the first stage of the judicial review process, on August 10.

Although, asylum seekers are not illegal or unwelcomed migrants according to EU law, anti-migrant politics gained incredible momentum during Brexit campaigns and has become a highly contentious issue for the British government. Steve Peers, a law professor at the University of Essex, believes that Brexit might “ultimately reduce UK control of migration [instead of] increas[ing] it”. UK’s predicted reduction in control could be further exacerbated by its exit from the Dublin Convention on the 31st December 2020.

As the situation currently stands, Brussels has been largely reluctant to address PM Boris Johnson’s demands regarding migrant returns and without any concessions in key areas of strategic importance to the EU – such as fishing –the current situation might be used as leverage in trade negotiations.

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