Government unveils plans to bar EU criminals from UK after Brexit

Large numbers of criminals from the EU will be barred from entering the UK as part of a toughening-up of border controls designed to make the country safer.

Oct 22, 2020
By Tony Thompson

The new rules will come into force at the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1, 2021, when free movement between the UK and the EU will no longer be allowed.

The changes are part of what the Home Office described as a “firmer and fairer” approach to immigration, which will see people from across the world treated equally.

Currently, under EU law, the UK has to allow some EU criminals into the country who would otherwise have been stopped and turned away. Under the changes, set to be laid before Parliament later today (October 22), foreign criminals sentenced to more than a year in jail will be banned from entering the UK.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “For too long, EU rules have forced us to allow dangerous foreign criminals, who abuse our values and threaten our way of life, onto our streets.

“The UK will be safer thanks to firmer and fairer border controls where foreign criminals regardless of nationality will be subject to the same criminality rules.

Current rules require officials to demonstrate that EU criminals present a “genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society” in order to restrict their free movement rights. This decision cannot be based solely on the criminal conviction, even if it was for murder or rape.

Foreign criminals sentenced to less than a year in jail could still be banned, with the Home Office considering on a case-by-case basis their full criminal history and whether they have ties to the UK such as family members.

Foreign criminals who have not received a prison sentence could also be banned from entering the UK if, for example, the offending is persistent or causes serious harm (such as sexual offences); if it is decided that their presence in UK is not conducive to the public good; or if they have a criminal conviction of any kind in the past 12 months and are seeking to enter the UK for the first time.

All offences will be considered, whether committed in the UK or overseas.

These changes will not apply to EU citizens protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, such as those with status under the EU Settlement Scheme. However, if an individual who is protected by the Withdrawal Agreement commits crimes from January 1, 2021, in the UK or overseas, their status could be revoked, for example, if that crime resulted in a prison sentence of at least a year.

In addition, the Extradition Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent today, giving the police the power to immediately detain internationally wanted criminals without having to apply for a UK arrest warrant first.

This will apply where an international arrest alert has been issued by a country we have specified in connection with a serious offence, such as an Interpol alert. The individual would then be brought before a court to decide whether to start extradition proceedings.

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