Theresa May Is Undermining Citizens’ Rights


During her recent visit to China, Theresa May has trampled on EU citizens’ rights, as well as evading the question of human rights in China. She has hardly the time to recover from jet-lag, before playing host to Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, world champion in human rights. Does Theresa May really believe in citizens’ rights? Is she prepared to defend them, and put lucrative trade deals on hold?


What we’re doing now is doing the job that the British people asked the government to do which is to deliver on Brexit. In doing that they did not vote for nothing to change when we come out of the EU….

…This is a matter for negotiation for the immediate period. But I’m clear there’s a difference between those people who came prior to us leaving and those who will come when they know the U.K. is no longer a member of the EU. – Theresa May

In suggesting that EU citizens coming to the UK, during the transition period, would not have the same rights as those entering the country before March 29th, 2019, Theresa May has underscored my long-held view that the UK’s negotiation promises cannot be trusted. I’m afraid I was right in saying that citizens’ rights have been swept under the carpet, and are in danger of being trampled on.

In arguing that when the UK is in the transition period, with full access to the single market, it will be quite justified to diminish the rights of EU citizens entering the country, Theresa May has shown her true colours, by completely disregarding fundamental EU citizens’ rights. This should not really surprise anybody, coming from a prime minister who acted despicably, during the Grenfell Tower tragedy. How could someone who did not think it was right to immediately pay visit to the victims of the disaster, possibly care about the freedom of movement of EU citizens within the cadre of EU law.

Her argument that she is simply following the wish of the British people, does nothing but add insult to injury. She was supposed to have rounded off the negotiations concerning citizens’ rights, in the first phase of the negotiations, and should keep her side of the bargain. A transition period of two years had been agreed, during which, the UK would continue to abide by EU law, including respecting the four fundamental freedoms. This can only mean that EU citizens keep their full rights, including freedom of movement, until the transition period is officially over.

So during the implementation period access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms  – Theresa May, Florence, 2017

Current terms, alluded to by Theresa May, implicitly state that the four freedoms (freedom of movement, goods, services, and capital) are indissociable. They cannot be curtailed or modified, without forfeiting free market access. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, reposted that there was no scope for negotiating citizens’ rights during the transition phase, and that, “we will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing acquis with no exceptions.”

Theresa May’s justification for the UK’s newly found position is that, “those who come after March 2019…will be coming to a UK that they know will be outside the EU.” Following on from her logic, then, should the UK have a “modified access” to the single market? The four freedoms make up the life and soul of the Union, and is one European ideal that must be left untouched. In fact, together with the long-lasting peace that Europe has witnessed, the single market is no longer an ideal. It has turned into a fact, and European ideals must be found elsewhere.

Sino-UK partnership transcends media mudslinging over human rights – The Global Times

The UK’s disregard for citizens’ rights does not limit itself to European citizens. During her recent visit to China, Theresa May conspicuously avoided the subject of China’s attitude concerning citizens rights in Hong-Kong. It is now twenty years since the city-state was handed over to China, in an agreement that was supposed to guarantee the freedom of its citizens who had, up to then, enjoyed protection under British colonial supervision. This freedom – in particular, political freedom – is slowly being eroded by the Chinese government. A recent report, published by the Asia Study Centre, concludes that although the Hong-Kong economy has benefited from the hand-over to China, “Beijing’s increasing control over arms of governance [in the legislative and executive councils], have been successful in narrowing access for pro-democracy activists.” The Global Times commends the UK prime minister for not having made, “any comment contrary to the goals of her China trip either… the losses outweigh the gains if she appeases the British media at the cost of the visit’s friendly atmosphere.” 

The goals of Theresa May’s trip to China were clear from the outset. She wanted to secure trade deals (in defiance of EU regulations), even if that meant trampling on human rights, by avoiding media questioning. I just wonder if she had a WiFi connection in her hotel suite, that managed to evade China’s “Great Firewall” – part of China’s internet clampdown and censorship. Beijing has put in place legislation and enforcement technology, in order to block foreign websites, and other online resources (including social media and emails), that are deemed inappropriate or offensive, by the Chinese authorities.

Theresa May comes back to London, unrepentant, and with a clear conscience. She barely has time to recover from jet-lag, before she has to welcome another “champion” of human rights – Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia is well publicised and denounced by various groups. A world report, published by the Human Rights Watch Group, notes that, “Saudi Arabia continued to repress pro-reform activists and peaceful dissidents. In 2016 over a dozen prominent activists convicted on charges arising from their peaceful activities were serving long prison sentences.” The blatant violation of human rights by Saudi Arabia – including war crimes in Yemen – won’t stop the UK from seeking to sign lucrative trade deals for British businesses, having already agreed military cooperation.

Theresa May has shown several times that she is prepared to curtail citizens’ rights in her own country, and to ignore them on the world stage. She is forgetting that the government of a state is elected by, and should serve, its citizens. It is highly dangerous that corporate interests have so much influence on decisions taken by those in power. Politicians who are prepared to trade citizens’ rights and freedoms, for lucrative deals, represent a real threat for the well-being of the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect. If a democracy does not look after the well-being of its citizens, what does it look after, and what purpose does it serve?