Newspaper article International New York Times

May Pledges Cap on Migration, but Maybe Not by 2020 ; Ahead of Germany Visit, Britain Cedes Its Turn in E.U. Presidency Rotation

Newspaper article International New York Times

May Pledges Cap on Migration, but Maybe Not by 2020 ; Ahead of Germany Visit, Britain Cedes Its Turn in E.U. Presidency Rotation

Article excerpt

Britain's new leader took on the opposition Labour Party, before traveling to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Answering her first set of parliamentary questions as prime minister, Theresa May gave a combative performance against the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on Wednesday, but refused to give a clear picture of the relationship Britain will seek with the European Union after its referendum decision to quit the bloc.

Speaking ahead of a meeting in Berlin with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Mrs. May recommitted herself to her Conservative Party's target of reducing net immigration to below 100,000 people a year -- though she conceded that it would "take time to reach that goal," and appeared to backtrack from an earlier objective of achieving it by 2020.

Migration was a central issue in last month's referendum over membership in the European Union, which guarantees the right of free movement of people, capital, goods and services, and in that way made it impossible for Britain to stop citizens of member states from coming to the country for work.

Despite Mrs. May's repetition of the migration target, which had been questioned by some of her senior colleagues, the time span over which she intends to hit it remained vague.

In Parliament, Mrs. May struck a confident, sometimes acerbic, tone and, to cheers from her own lawmakers, likened Mr. Corbyn to an "unscrupulous boss," suggesting that his top tier of lawmakers had to "double their workload" while he "exploits the rules to further his own career."

Mr. Corbyn, who faces a leadership challenge from a Labour lawmaker, Owen Smith, has been hit by the mass resignation of many members of his senior team in Parliament, leading some of those who remain loyal to have more than one portfolio.

Mrs. May pointedly thanked Labour lawmakers who defied the views of Mr. Corbyn to vote alongside her on Monday to renew Britain's Trident nuclear missile system.

And she referred to the fact that she is the Conservative Party's -- and the nation's -- second female prime minister (the first was Margaret Thatcher), saying that she had "long heard the Labour Party asking what the Conservative Party does for women" before adding the answer: "It just keeps making us prime minister. …

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