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Immigration Bill to end EU free movement finally published


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The long awaited Immigration Bill has finally been published. Its mission: to end the free movement rights of nearly four million EU citizens and their family members in the UK. There is as yet no proposed commencement date for when it will take legal effect.

The full short title is the “Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2019.” The long title is

A Bill to Make provision to end rights to free movement of persons under retained EU law and to repeal other retained EU law relating to immigration; to confer power to modify retained direct EU legislation relating to social security co-ordination; and for connected purposes.

The long title is important because it limits the type of amendment that can be tabled to the Bill. Any proposed amendments need to be relevant to the long title.

The bill is only seven clauses long and will do what it says on the tin. Most of it is given over to creating regulation making powers for Ministers but we can see that it includes scrapping section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988, which took EU citizens outside normal UK immigration control. Scrapping section 7 brings them back within UK immigration control.

We also see a proper statutory footing for Irish citizens offered in clause 2 of the Bill, which is to be welcomed given the uncertainty in their strict legal position previously highlighted on this blog. Irish citizens will not require leave to enter or remain, no matter from where they enter the UK, but can be deported or excluded under UK immigration laws.

As Bernard Ryan has written, the status of Irish citizens has been legally unclear for many years. It looks like clause 2 also makes clear that Irish citizens can qualify for naturalisation by virtue of not requiring leave to enter or remain, as they are not “subject under the immigration laws to any restriction on the period for which he might remain in the United Kingdom” (as required by the British Nationality Act 1981, Schedule 1, paragraph 2).

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What I do not see in the Bill, on my initial reading at least, is the inclusion of any right of appeal against refusal of leave for EU citizens applying under the settled status scheme. Primary legislation is needed for them to have a right of appeal, and as this is the only immigration legislation we’re likely to see before Brexit, the right of appeal really needs to go into this Bill if there is to be any such right of appeal. The right of appeal could potentially be included in other Brexit legislation but I’d have thought the only Immigration Act ought to be its natural home.

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Colin Yeo

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.