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Book review: Macdonald’s Immigration Law and Practice (10th edition)


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The legendary tome that is Macdonald’s needs no introduction for most immigration lawyers. It is the reference book on immigration law. If you want to know something and Google — or dare I say even Free Movement — fails you, this is the place to look it up. It’s certainly where I go, anyway. And it is now in its tenth edition, now edited by my colleagues at Garden Court Chambers: Stephanie Harrison QC, Ronan Toal, Sadat Sayeed and David Neale.

This is, sadly, the first edition since Ian Macdonald’s death in 2019. He continues to be very sorely missed at Garden Court and in the wider immigration law world. He had hoped that this would be the final edition he edited. Instead it is dedicated to Ian, his family and his friends.

The last edition was published late in 2014. That was after the Immigration Act 2014 had been passed but before some sections had commenced. It was certainly before its impact was fully understood, although Ian warned in the preface to the last edition of the discriminatory effects of the hostile environment measures it introduced. Since then, we’ve seen the Immigration Act 2016 and, more momentously, Brexit. There have been 28 statements of changes to the Immigration Rules in the intervening period and innumerable reported cases, including five Supreme Court cases on the hotly contested right to private and family life alone.

It would be a herculean task to properly review Macdonald’s, in the sense of reading through it and commenting on the book as a whole. That is not how anyone uses the book in any event: it is a reference work, and an invaluable one. I have not been involved with this latest edition but I did work on the ninth edition, on the chapter on removals and other types of expulsion. Instead of attempting an overview, I will comment that single issue.

Updating such an authoritative text is a serious challenge. The contents are intended to be genuinely comprehensive, but the chaos of immigration law means this risks sacrificing usability. With the removals chapter in the ninth edition, we were torn between retaining the old text on removals, which would be relevant for some time to come in some cases, and fully embracing the future by addressing the changed powers under the Immigration Act 2014. In the end, we did what we could to address the new law but retained the old law as well. Much of the material in the chapter was largely redundant, though, and the chapter was unnecessarily long and complex.

Seven years on, the new editors have been able to cut through all that. The removal and deportation chapters have been merged. There were 49 pages of material on removal in the last edition and that has been reduced to 30 in the new one. The text has been almost completely restructured and rewritten, and rightly so. I can see a few of the older sentences retained along with the key older authorities. The section on long residence, left behind from an earlier era like a glacial erratic, has been moved to a more fitting location.

The new edition is more straightforward yet has lost none of its authority. And if older references are needed, of course past editions are still there on library shelves to be consulted.

As has been the case since the first edition back in 1983, serious immigration lawyers dealing with complex cases will need to have the latest version of Macdonald’s to hand. To help with that, the publishers are offering a discount of 15% until 19 November 2021. Follow this link to claim the discount: www.lexisnexis.co.uk/MILP21.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.