EU nationals still allowed to bring foreign partners to UK despite Government ruling, European court rules

Judgment has major implications for people across the European Union

EU nationals who gain British citizenship retain their right to bring a spouse to the UK from overseas, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled, in a case that could have implications for people across the European Union.

ECJ judges spent five months deliberating on the issue but have now ruled against the Home Office, which had argued that EU nationals who become British citizens lose their rights under EU freedom of movement laws and instead become subject to UK immigration rules.

The case the judges were asked to consider involved an Algerian man, Toufik Lounes, who lives in the UK with his wife, a dual Spanish and British national, but was facing deportation after the Home Office refused his application for permanent residency.

The Home Office had argued that once his wife, Perla Nerea García Ormazabal, became a British citizen, she no longer had the right to have Mr Lounes stay in the UK with her.

Instead, the Government said, Mr Lounes should be subject to the UK’s strict tests to determine whether someone is allowed to bring a spouse into the country.

However, the ECJ decided that Mr Lounes had a “derived right” to remain in the UK under the EU freedom of movement directive.

The ruling said: “The United Kingdom may not now, solely on the grounds that she has been naturalised in that State, disregard the rights which [Ms Garcia Ormazabal] has exercised on the basis of EU secondary law, just as it may not disregard the fact that she has retained her nationality of origin, that is, Spanish nationality.”

While the ruling could guarantee the rights of other EU nationals in a similar position, it will apply only up to the point the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, at which time freedom of movement between Britain and the EU will cease.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are reviewing the judgment and carefully considering its impact.”

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