As many immigration law specialists are aware, it can be difficult for their clients to keep up with the often changing legal framework. Unfortunately, the UK’s immigration policy and rules are constantly a matter of contention – even more so in the run up to the General Election. The current political landscape means the UK’s relationship with the EU is under scrutiny, causing uncertainty for individuals and their families wanting to rely on their EU rights.

The recent focus has been on the fundamental principle of the free movement of people in the EU, which Prime Minister David Cameron is reported as seeking to limit. How he hopes to achieve this is yet to be confirmed, but the most widely reported proposal is to place an “emergency brake” on some citizens from existing EU member states exercising their right if they are looking for work and impose a burden on public services.

So, is this proposal compatible with the law? Not according to the European Commission and immigration law specialists. The free movement of people is a fundamental principle enshrined in the foundational EU Treaties (the TFEU ands TEU) – this makes it central to the very purpose and functioning of the EU legal system and single EU market.

Although there is a power under current rules to suspend fundamental EU freedoms, it may only be exercised in an emergency, such as during a national disaster or by an extreme threat to a member state’s economy. It would indeed be quite a stretch to justify any restrictions on the basis that the incumbent UK government may not be re-elected if it fails to show a stricter position on immigration.

However, the debate has raised an issue that means we may see legislation in the future. There is currently no EU legislation that expands on the provisions of the Treaties allowing the suspension of the fundamental free movement of workers on the basis of an emergency. As such, more detailed rules laid down in a Directive may provide greater certainty on how, and when, EU immigration may be restricted.

Moreover, proposed legislation would come under greater scrutiny by all EU institutions and Member States, rather than dominated by nationalistic political, and arguably short sighted, wrangling – perhaps providing a political environment that will seek to protect, rather than limit, the fundamental freedoms currently enjoyed by all EU citizens.

Specialist Immigration Advice

Our specialist immigration team at Sultan Lloyd Solicitors offer expert legal advice on all immigration law matters. If you need more information please contact us either on the phone or using our online enquiry form, and one of our team will get back to you as quickly as they can.