THE POSITION OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
51. The Government's policy is clear and has
been often stated: they are opposed to the extension of free movement
rights to third-country nationals. It might have been possible
for the United Kingdom to participate in the adoption of a Directive
defining the status of long-term resident third-country nationals
in internal situations. However, it is impossible to reconcile
existing Government policy with participation in the present proposal,
which also covers free movement rights. There was thus no realistic
prospect that the United Kingdom would opt to participate in the
Directive. Nevertheless, the Government were unable formally to
reach their decision not to opt in before giving evidence to this
Committee, nor even before the Minister answered an oral question
in the House on the Government's response to the Directive on
23 July, just five days before the deadline of 28 July. We were
finally informed of the Government's decision in a letter from
the Minister to the Chairman of the Committee, dated 7 August.
52. The fundamental principle underlying Government
policy is the preservation of the United Kingdom's independent
frontier controls. This principle is written into the Frontiers
Protocol annexed to the EC Treaty and TEU. The Government, in
their Response to our Report on A Community Immigration Policy,
drew attention to their wish to "maximise the important social
and economic contribution that managed migration can make".
In contrast, the Government's evidence to this inquiry makes it
clear that when a measure is "so fundamental in cutting across
frontier controls" then social or economic arguments,
including the many potential benefits to British businesses described
by one witness to this inquiry,
will take second place.
53. The Government have rejected the Committee's
suggestion that by not participating fully in the development
of Community immigration policy their influence upon it will be
weakened. However, the present proposal demonstrates just how
little influence the United Kingdom in fact has. The Government
themselves have conceded that in certain important respects it
"builds on Schengen arrangements" on free movementto
which the United Kingdom is not party. So far as the United Kingdom
and Ireland are concerned we have already commented on some of
its major lacunaeareas where it manifestly fails to take
account of their independent frontier control and admission policies.
In fact it seems to have been drafted on the assumption that the
United Kingdom would not participate. This is partly because of
the way the Commission's various proposals dovetailthe
possibility of opting into one individual proposal, when it relies
on cross-references to so may other proposals, is remote. It therefore
comes as no surprise, however regrettable it is, that in bilateral
discussions the Commission, by the Government's own admission,
took little account of the United Kingdom's views.
54. Despite the Government's determination to
retain control over immigration policy, the United Kingdom has
opted into the Directive on the mutual recognition of expulsion
decisions, which establishes a procedure whereby the United Kingdom
may enforce immigration decisions reached by other Member States.
We were told
that this had no bearing on the present proposal, in that the
Directive on mutual recognition of expulsion decisions imposed
no obligation on the United Kingdom: it did not "direct"
us to do anything. This is not a plausible argumentif it
were it would render the entire Directive nugatory. The procedure
for mutual recognition can only have been agreed on the assumption
that it would be applied. The Government's decision to opt in
to that Directive, but not the present proposal, appears to confirm
the impression that they are more concerned with "control"
measures than measures that might give third-country nationals
55. Nor does the Government's procedure for reaching
its decision not to opt in appear to have been particularly thorough.
The "consultation" process seems to have been purely
inter-departmentalno effort was made, for instance, to
consult employer organisations, who might be thought to have an
interest in facilitating free movement for third-country national
workers. It is not enough for the Government to wait to be lobbied
by such organisations, or to rely on the parliamentary Scrutiny
Committees to seek out their views.
56. The development of a Community immigration
policy is now proceeding rapidly. Since publishing its proposal
for a Directive concerning the legal status of long-term resident
third-country nationals in the spring the Commission has published
several more major proposals in the fields of immigration policy
and free movement. It would be very unfortunate were the United
Kingdom not to be able to contribute fully to the debate on these
developments. But for this to happen, more serious commitment
will have to be shown on all sides. The Commission will have to
show itself more willing to take account of the views of the United
Kingdom and Ireland, and draft proposals so that it is at least
feasible for them to participate. For their part the Government,
regardless of the "opt-out", will have to keep in better
touch with developments at Community level, contributing more
actively and consulting more widely, even where they ultimately
decide not to participate in a proposal. The Government's policy
is clear and unambiguousbut it carries with it the risk
of sidelining the United Kingdom in this important area of Community
57. The Commission's proposal for a Directive
concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term
residents is a major development in Community immigration policy.
Despite the Government's decision not to participate in the adoption
of the proposal, it raises important issues for the United Kingdom.
We make this Report to the House for information.
27 See paragraph 27, above. Back
See paragraph 21, above. Back
A Community Immigration Policy, paragraph 165. Back
See paragraph 24, above. Back
See paragraph 23, above. Back
See paragraph 28, above. Back
Reprinted in Appendix 4. Back
The Immigration Law Practitioners' Association-see their evidence
p 35. Back
See Questions 63-64. Back