Judges to rule on non-EU movement

Published: Thursday 18th December 2014 by The News Editor

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European Union (EU) judges will rule on a major court challenge today that could open UK 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, a Colombian citizen, Patricia McCarthy Rodriguez. They have two young children who are both British citizens.

Mrs McCarthy claims 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 requires 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 Mrs McCarthy should not have to apply for a visa every time she wants to travel.

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

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, which interprets EU law, will decide today if the UK is in breach of EU law by requiring Mrs McCarthy to possess a visa to travel. Britain will be bound by the Court of Justice’s ruling.

The McCarthy family’s solicitor, human rights lawyer Martin Howe, said: ” The UK’s ability to control its borders, the issue of free movement in the EU and the UK’s very membership of the European Union are key issues in the lead up to the May 2015 General Election.

“This case could hardly come at a more important time.”

He added: “The case underlines the central importance of free movement to EU citizens and their families, including British citizens’ rights.

“The decision will potentially remove the ability of the Home Secretary to mandate visas for large numbers of non-EU nationals living with EU citizens in the other 27 EU States.”

Mrs McCarthy has to go from Marbella to the British Embassy in Madrid in order 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 State’s Residence Cards, as some do not allegedly meet international security standards, and therefore could be used to abuse EU freedom of movement rules.

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 from 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 warn that welfare reforms will be an ”absolute requirement” in the renegotiation that would be held ahead of his planned referendum on EU membership.

Published: Thursday 18th December 2014 by The News Editor

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