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‘Millions’ more given the right to move to the UK after court rules EU workers free to bring their families… wherever they are from

Posted on December 28, 2014
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European judges dealt a fresh blow to the Government today after ruling foreign families of EU citizens cannot be stopped from moving to the UK.

Until now, ministers had required European nationals’ overseas family members to get a travel permit before travelling to Britain.

But the European Court of Justice found a British citizen living and working in Spain did not have to get a travel permit for his Colombian wife to visit the UK.

Ukip claimed the ruling extended the right to free movement to ‘millions of people from anywhere in the world’.

Sean McCarthy is now free to bring his Colombian wife Patricia McCarthy Rodriguez and daughters Natasha and Chloe to the UK after European Union judges ruled in their favour against the British government

The controversial ruling means overseas citizens from outside the European Union who marry someone from the EU could get the right to move to Britain.

A government source said the ruling only applied to overseas family members of EU nationals who are living outside of the country he or she is from.

In practice this would mean that an Algerian partner of a French national living in France would still need a family permit to visit Britain.

However if the Algerian and French couple were living in Spain, or any EU country outside of France, the new ruling would allow them to come on a residents permit.

The case revolved around Sean McCarthy, a dual British and Irish national living and working in Spain, and his wife, Patricia McCarthy Rodriguez. 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.

However, 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.

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 European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which interprets EU law, ruled in the McCarthys’ favour today, stating that freedom of movement rules do not allow measures which – in pursuit of an objective of general prevention of abuse – preclude family members from entering a member state without a visa.

The win could potentially open Britain’s borders to large numbers of non-EU nationals who live with EU citizens across the continent.

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 UK invoked the visa regime because it had concerns about other EU member states’ residence cards, as some allegedly do not meet international security standards, and therefore could be used to abuse EU freedom of movement rules.

But the 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.

Court of Justice 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 Court of Justice’s 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 Court of Justice 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.’

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