Where do the current Prime Minister candidates stand on the Middle East?

As the UK looks forward to the future after Brexit, the next Prime Minister will not only have to deal with turmoil within British politics but will also need to address the current situation in the Middle East.

Theresa May

(Home Secretary)



As the current home secretary, May campaigned for Remain but rejected EU refugee resettlement schemes and is a strong anti-immigration voice. She has campaigned to deport terrorism suspects, and has stripped 33 people of British citizenship based on suspected terrorist activity. She has proclaimed that she will attempt to ensure that citizenship is only granted to people who embrace British values.

Domestic Affairs

Recently, May launched a review as part of the government’s counter-extremism strategy which will examine how Sharia law can cause ‘harm’ in communities, and specifically how the Islamic legal system discriminates against women especially in cases of divorce, domestic violence, and custody cases. It will also consider the extent to which the application of Sharia law is incompatible with the rule of law in Britain [1].


May voted in favour of bombing Syria in 2013 and 2015, and she supported the Labour government’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. She has almost always supported the use of UK military forces overseas.

Michael Gove

(Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice)



One of Gove’s main reasons for supporting Brexit was his belief that the being in the EU makes it more difficult to identify terrorists as the EU dictates “what our spies can do and whether we can be kept safe” [2]. In addition, he says that the UK has been unable to stop terror suspects from entering the country because of EU law.

In his 2006 book Celsius 7/7, Gove discusses “how the west’s policy of appeasement has provoked yet more fundamentalist terror—and what has to be done now.” He compares the threat of political Islam to communism and Nazism. He claims that his motivation for the book came from Britain’s “widespread reluctance to acknowledge the real scale and nature of the Islamist terror threat” and the “failure to scrutinise, monitor or check the actions, funding and operation of those committed to spreading the Islamist word in Britain” [3]. Gove also says that “if we believe in the superiority of our way of life” then “we should be urgently working to spread democracy” and that the Islamists are right to see the West as their mortal enemy [3].

Despite Theresa May’s rigid views on immigration and the deportation of terrorist suspects, May and Gove have clashed dramatically over the government’s strategy for dealing with extremism. Gove is very harsh in his policy on extremism, and believes that all extremists should be targeted, whether or not they support violence [4].


Gove is a supporter of Israel, and his views on the country were described in the “Jewish 100s” as “More favourable than those of any other mainstream British politician, current or past” [5]. He also had very strong opinions about the boycott of Isreali goods, and in 2014 said that the boycott is a crime worse than apartheid. He also said “We need to remind ourselves that defending Israel’s right to exist is defending our common humanity. Now more than ever” [6].


He was a strong supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and even five years later described it as a foreign policy success. Gove supported action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2013, and voted for air strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2014 and 2015.


Andrea Leadsom

(Member of Parliament for South Northamptonshire)


Nuclear Energy

Nuclear safety and regulation is a subject Leadsom places great importance on. During her speech at the Iraqi Petroleum Conference in 2015, she called Iraq a “key partner” in achieving “our shared goals of energy security and prosperity” [7]. Leadsom also said, “The UK is committed to continue to stand by the people of Iraq, the government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government in their fight against terrorism and protecting civilians from ISIL’s murderous campaign” [7].


Leadsom supported the use of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, and posted on her website that Parliament agreed to them because ISIS cannot be reasoned with, is a direct threat to Britain, and the Iraqi government asked for assistance.


Like the other candidates, Leadsom plans to crack down on all immigration. She says “Freedom of movement will end and the British parliament will decide how many people enter our country each year to live, work and contribute to our national life” [8]. Unlike Theresa May, Leadsom has guaranteed the rights of the EU citizens already living in the UK. However, the immigration policies of all of the candidates leave the future uncertain for non-EU citizens in the UK and for refugees.


Leadsom has consistently supported the use of military force overseas.


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