EU court blindsides UK Home Office in landmark ruling

Published:  15 Nov at 6 PM
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In a significant judgement, the EU Court of Justice has ruled the UK cannot prevent a woman with dual Spanish/British citizenship from living with her Algerian husband in the UK.

The ruling may well have significant effects on the Brexit negotiations, as it enshrines the rights to live in the UK of EU citizens married to non-British nationals. Following the judgement, the UK is disallowed from removing citizens' rights such as the freedom to live with a non-UK spouse. UK expats in similar situations in EU member states will be awaiting confirmation their EU rights to live normal family lives won’t be taken away once Brexit is concluded.

Citizens’ rights are one of the three key issues still unresolved by negotiation, with the EU saying Britain’s divorce bill must be paid before any progress can be made on outstanding issues. EU negotiators have made a number of reassuring statements aimed at UK expats and retirees living in EU member states, but most of those affected are still living in fear of having to lose their chosen lifestyles.

The British in Europe group working on behalf of UK expats isees the court’s judgement as good news for both EU and UK expats at present applying for citizenship in their host countries in spite of concerns they may lose access to family reunification rights. It appears the ruling will now form a part of pre-Brexit case law agreed by both sides, thus guaranteeing its inclusion in the citizens’ rights section of the Withdrawal Agreement.

As of now, it’s not clear whether Britons moving to Europe post-Brexit will be covered by the law, but the court’s decision suggests an awareness of the wider issues surrounding Brexit and its effect on citizens’ rights. The original court case dates from March 2016, when a court in the UK requested guidance from EU judges on the residence and free movement rights of Perla Ormazabal and her husband.

Formerly, the British Home Office had ruled EU expats with dual EU/UK citizenship had forfeited those rights, but the EU judges’ decision is likely to bring peace of mind to a good number of other couples in similar positions.
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