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Cameron Takes Aim at Immigration, Rights Policies

British prime minister David Cameron said he wants to scrap the Human Rights Act and cancel citizenship for foreign workers.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 10/4/2011, 9:16 PM

As Europe struggles to balance its modern secular ethics with failed cultural integration and religious radicalism among immigrants, especially from North Africa and the Mideast, Britian's conservative government is taking aim at the widely unpopular legislation and policies seen as undermining the country's cultural norms and security.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday he wants to scrap his nation's Human Rights Act and cancel a Home Office policy extending citizenship to foreigners who have worked in the UK for at least five years.

Cameron's statement came after Home Secretary Theresa May warned the Human Rights Act had become a charter for foreign criminals and terrorists in the UK. May called for it to be cancelled so the Home Office could be freed to take more aggressive action to ensure British security.

"I'd personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have had some problems with it," May told The Guardian in what many observers say was a maneuver intended to force the Prime Minister's hand.

So cornered, Cameron said wanted the hugely unpopular Act — passed by Labour in 1998 — to be replaced with a British Bill of Rights, but said being in coalition with Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats was making him go "slowly".

But Cameron didn't stop with the Human Rights Act. He wants his government to crack down on a regime which allowed a record 241,000 foreigners to settle here last year, up from 51,000 when Labour came to power.

To do this Cameron plans to abolish a rule that gives those from abroad the right to live in Britain permanently if they work in the country for five years.

The government is also considering restricting the right of immigrants' spouses to a British passport if they reside in the country long enough.

Breaking the link between permanent settlement and the right to work in the UK temporarily, has long been demanded by groups campaigning for a policy of ‘balanced migration'.

Under the plans, to be published before the end of this year, foreigners will still be able to gain a visa to work in Britain, but they will no longer be able to remain there permanently simply by virtue of staying in the country legally for five years.

A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: "We want to break the link between working and settling in Britain. It has become almost automatic for people who keep their noses clean and don't get a criminal record.

"The Government is not against people coming here to work, but that shouldn't automatically mean they get to stay in Britain forever."

While riding the populist trend domestically, Cameron continued to buck pressure for an "in-out" referendum concerning the UKs continued membership in the European Union.

"I want us to be influential in Europe about the things that matter to our national interest - promoting the single market, pushing forward for growth, making sure we get lower energy prices," he told the London Times.

"Those are things we will be fighting for but I don't see the case for an in-out referendum on Europe.

"We are in Europe, we have got to make it work for us."

Many Britons, however, feel continued EU membership and participating in the single market has harmed the UKs economy and long-term interests.