Thursday, 18 December 2014

The UK cannot block non-European Union family members from entering the country

UK cannot block non-EU family

The UK cannot block non-European Union family members from entering the country without a travel permit, EU judges have ruled, in a decision which potentially opens Britain's borders to large numbers of non-EU nationals.

The complicated case centres on Sean McCarthy, a dual British and Irish national living and working in Spain, and his wife, Patricia McCarthy Rodriguez, a Colombian citizen. They have two young children who are both British citizens.

Mrs McCarthy claimed she should be allowed to travel to the UK with her British family without having to obtain a British visa as she holds an EU Residence Card issued by the Spanish government.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, which interprets EU law, ruled in the McCarthys' favour, saying freedom of movement rules do not allow measures which stop family members from entering a member state without a visa, adding that the rules are for general grounds of preventing abuse.
Conservative and Ukip MEPs reacted with outrage at the decision.

Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, spokesman on justice and home affairs, said: " Britain will always be best placed to decide and deal with its own immigration needs - not a judge in Luxembourg.

"We must have a system robust enough to prevent abuse and flexible enough to assess each case on its merits. Most of all we need a visa system controlled by the UK and not the EU."

The British Government has until now required Mrs McCarthy to obtain a "family permit" visa every six months if she wants to travel to the UK.

Mrs McCarthy has to go from Marbella to the British Embassy in Madrid to be fingerprinted and complete detailed application forms every time she wants to travel to the UK.

The process takes several weeks, even months, her lawyers said.

The McCarthys took action against the UK Government under the European Union's freedom of movement rules, arguing that Mrs McCarthy should not have to apply for a visa every time she wants to travel.

The win could potentially open Britain's borders to large numbers of non-EU nationals who live with EU citizens who have exercised their freedom of movement rights across the continent.

Mr McCarthy said: " I'm overjoyed at the news from Luxembourg. It's been a five-year battle for our family to be treated fairly and with dignity by the UK.

"As a British national I had expected my country to play by the rules, and now the court has finally forced the UK to respect British and European citizens' free movement rights." 

Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, when he was attorney general, tried to argue that the UK was entitled to invoke the visa regime to allay concerns about other EU member states' residence cards, as some allegedly do not meet international security standards and are open to abuse.

But UK legislation requires an entry permit to be obtained before entry into the UK even where the authorities do not consider that the family member of an EU citizen may be involved in an abuse of rights or fraud.

ECJ judges said the fact that a member state is faced with a high number of cases of abuse of rights or fraud committed by non-EU nationals - as the UK claims - cannot justify a sweeping measure to exclude family members of EU citizens.

The judges said the UK is able to assess documentation for signs of fraud or abuse at the border and if fraud is proven they can exclude an individual.

But they added that the UK is " not permitted to determine the conditions for entry of persons who have a right of entry under EU law or to impose upon them extra conditions for entry or conditions other than those provided for by EU law". 

A Government spokesman said: " The UK is disappointed with the judgment in this case. It is right to tackle fraud and the abuse of free movement rights.

"As the case is still to return to the UK's High Court for a final judgment, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

Britain is bound by the ECJ ruling. 

Free movement rules have been at the heart of the debate over immigration in Britain and whether the country should remain a member of the EU.

Last month, David Cameron promised tough new restrictions to stem the flow of EU citizens to Britain, including a block on EU migrants claiming welfare for the first four years after they arrive in the country.

However, the Prime Minister insisted he rules ''nothing out'' if British demands for change fall on deaf ears, and warned that welfare reforms will be an ''absolute requirement'' in the renegotiation that would be held ahead of his planned referendum on EU membership.

Ukip MEP and spokesman on immigration Steven Woolfe said the ECJ ruling strikes another blow against the UK's power to control its borders.

Mr Woolfe said: "Britain will be forced to recognise residence permits issued by any EU member state, even though the system of permits is wide open to abuse and fraud.

"This ruling extends the so-called 'right to free movement' to millions of people from anywhere in the world who don't have citizenship of any country of the EU.

"This is yet more proof that Britain can never take back control of its borders as long as it remains in the European Union."

He went on: " This makes claims by David Cameron that he can control migration from within the EU look even more absurd.

"The ECJ, like every other EU institution, is determined that Britain will never take back control of its borders. That is a non-negotiable principle of the European treaties. For Cameron to pretend otherwise is naive or dishonest or both."

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Russell Brand criticised Ukip leader Nigel Farage when the pair appeared on Question …
Russell Brand was exposed as a "messiah with feet of clay" in his Question Time clash with Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader has claimed.
The comedian condemned Mr Farage as a "pound shop Enoch Powell" on the BBC1 show last night, which saw the two field questions from a studio audience on immigration, schools and Brand's anti-politics campaign.
And both took to the internet to continue trading insults after filming was complete.
Writing on his blog, Revolution author Brand said Mr Farage was " worse than stagnant, he is a tribute act, he is a nostalgic spasm for a Britain that never was; an infinite cricket green with no-one from the colonies to raise the game, grammar schools on every corner and shamed women breastfeeding under giant parasols".
He accused the Ukip leader of trading on fear, claiming that in an unbroadcast section Mr Farage had backed parents' right to smack their children on the grounds that: "It's good for them to be afraid."
Brand said: "There is a lot of fear about in our country at the moment and he is certainly benefiting from it. But the Britain I love is unafraid and brave. We have a laugh together, we take care of one another, we love an underdog and we unite to confront bullies."
He added: "Nigel Farage in the flesh - gin-blossomed flesh that it is - inspires sympathy more than fear, an end of the pier, end of the road, end of days politician, who like many people who drink too much has a certain sloppy sadness."
Meanwhile, Mr Farage wrote on the Independent website that the "sometime comedian turned banker-basher" had been "limp".
He added: "Maybe it was the ChapStick that his make-up artist applied to his lips at the last moment, but he didn't seem to utter a word of sense.
"Mr Brand will swan around and tout long-discredited, even conspiratorial, theories about the City of London, and 'who owns politicians' - but actually he had very little to give."
Both were disparaging about the Question Time format - which pitted them against Conservative Penny Mordaunt, Labour's Mary Creagh and journalist Camilla Cavendish.
Mr Farage said it was "all a little formulaic", while Brand described it as "a pantomime... a timid and tepid debate where the topics and dynamism of the discussion are as wooden and flat as the table we gamely sit around".
Both agreed that the most vital contributions came from the audience, including one man who challenged Brand to stand for Parliament and a woman who told Mr Farage that immigration was a side-issue which should not dominate the political debate.
Brand said "the only worthwhile sentiments, be they raging or insightful, come from the audience".
Mr Farage said audience members had expressed "sensible" ideas on immigration, grammar schools and the NHS.
He said: "People are attracted to Mr Brand's 'I'll rant and rave but never stand for Parliament myself' politics. Don't vote. Don't engage. What's the point?
"You can see the logic. But morally, you can't really justify it... This isn't the way politics is done in this country. And I'll be damned if a chest-hair obsessed Hollywood type tries to tell us it is.
"T he messiah has feet of clay, and the revolution is not occurring on Mr Brand's side - it's happening with Ukip, and it's happening fast."

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