A big week in history

borrowed from bbc.co.ukSo much going on! The EU and David Cameron reached a deal this week which would see a number of key facets of the European law amended to allow the UK a more distinct position within the federation of member states. The EU published the full text of that agreement in a press release Friday.

It’s notable that two of Cameron’s requests weren’t included at all: the ability to oust people who haven’t found a job in six months, and a requirement for jobseekers to have a job offer before entering the country. Neither, apparently, were possible under current EU treaty, and it’s some small consolation that the deal is not a complete capitulation to the UK demands.

However, apparently most of the language regarding changes to the free movement rules has stayed intact from the draft documents, which we looked at in some depth earlier this month. Steve Peers has done a comprehensive opinion piece on the immigration elements of the final deal, to which I can’t possibly add, but specifically relevant is this:

The amendments will exclude two separate categories of non-EU citizens from the scope of the citizens’ Directive: those who did not have prior lawful residence in a Member State before marrying an EU citizen who has moved to another Member State; and those who marry such an EU citizen after he or she has moved to a Member State. For these people, national immigration law will apply.

(emphasis mine.) It reads as if a non-EU spouse would need to establish legal residence in an EU country before marrying an UK citizen, but that the marriage needs to happen before the UK citizen moves to that third country. It’s messy, and as Peers says,

the planned legislative changes will complicate the plans of people who wish to move to another Member State with their non-EU family and then move back, since national immigration law will apply to their move to the hostMember State.

In plainer words: as feared, it looks like the Surinder Singh path will become more difficult. But as Peers also examines, there are a lot of things still open to interpretation, possibly by the courts, and the SS door seems not fully closed.

Acceptance of these changes is of course contingent on the UK agreeing to stay in the EU at all, which of course was another big development this week: Cameron officially set a June 23 date for an “in or out” referendum.

We have an idea what a vote to stay may mean for immigration policy. We have no idea at all what an exit may bring. Some are actually arguing EU free movement is hindering a fair immigration system…though I personally find it hard to believe Theresa May will suddenly change her tune should a separation occur. It’s not hard to imagine this being the biggest democratic event of our lifetimes; if you are able to vote, please take the time to form a considered opinion and express it.

And while all this is going on, we mustn’t forget that this week the Supreme Court hears appeals on two cases testing the basic legality of the income restriction. The outcome of these rulings could in fact have influence on the way the EU deal plays out. Should the income requirement be ruled disproportionately interfering with the ECHR Article 8 right to a family life, the whole game changes for people bringing family to the UK, regardless of Cameron’s EU deal.

Years from now, looking back at the course of UK history, it’s easy to imagine how the week or so surrounding today will be seen as a turning point. But which way will things turn?

Things to remember:

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