Theresa May’s Brexit Speech – Britain To Leave The Single Market and ECJ
Theresa May has announced that Britain is to leave the single market, end free movement of EU nationals and come out from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
In her speech, designed to outline 12 key objectives that will define the UK’s negotiating stance after Article 50 is triggered at the end of March, Mrs May made it clear that the country could not and would not accept the EU policy of freedom of movement.
Mrs May also refused to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK but stipulated that providing clarity on this issue was a “number-one priority”.
Founder of the 3 Million group which campaigns for the rights of EU citizens in the UK, Nicolas Hatton, told The Guardian that Mrs May was, “still in the reciprocity argument and refusing to unilaterally guarantee our rights”.
“EU citizens are living in limbo and Theresa May has done very little to reassure them today. I am very disappointed that the prime minister didn’t take this opportunity in front of an international audience to unilaterally guarantee our rights of residence and we will continue to campaign to obtain a firm guarantee before Article 50. We are not bargaining chips, we are human beings,” said Hatton.
Following the speech, Immigration solicitors continued to emphasise that the best course of action for EU nationals living in Britain to take is to apply for an EU permanent residence Card and/or British Citizenship immediately.
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What will leaving the ECJ mean for English Immigration law?
The Prime Minister’s justification for not remaining under the jurisdiction of the ECJ was that, “We will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.”
Theresa May has a long-standing dislike (some may say hatred) of ECJ and its decisions. This dates back to her days as Home Secretary when her efforts to control Immigration were often thwarted by ECJ rulings. For example, in 2014, the ECJ stated that Britain could block non-EU family members from entering the country without a travel permit, providing they are settled in another EU country.
However, a decision handed down in 2011 illustrates perfectly the kind of Immigration ruling the Prime Minister wants to move away from. The so-called Zambrano decision was the most radical judgment to date on EU citizenship and the residency rights of non-EU nationals. The case concerned the residency and welfare rights of the Columbian parents of two children born and raised in Belgium. The ECJ refused to allow a Belgian court to deport the parents of the Zambrano children. Its reasoning was that this would, “deprive citizens of the Union of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status as citizens of the Union”. The right in question was the right to a family life protected under the Charter.
The judgment meant the Zambrano principle had to apply to all EU member states, including Britain.
Britain has always had an independent and impartial judiciary. This will continue whether or not the UK remains under the jurisdiction of the ECJ. However, losing the right to send complex decisions to the ECJ will no doubt be seen as a loss by the learned men and women on the bench.
However, it is EU citizens and their families who have the most to lose once ECJ jurisdiction ends. Decisions such as Zambrano will no longer apply and the UK government will have virtually unfettered ability to restrict Immigration and in turn, separate families and loved ones on a permanent basis.
This is why ensuring you have a permanent residence Card and/or British Citizenship with an application prepared by an experienced Immigration lawyer, is the best step EU nationals can take to secure their right to remain in the UK
Stay tuned for our next segment on Theresa May's speech where we will be answering your questions.
OTS Solicitors is regarded as one of the best Immigration law firms in the UK. If you need advice on any Immigration law matters, please phone our office on 0203 959 9123 to talk to one of our dedicated Immigration lawyers.