The Lisbon Treaty: More Red-Tape Round Our Border Controls?

March 17, 2008

The Lisbon Treaty could further weaken Britain’s ability to control her own borders, according to a report out today by Migrationwatch.

The Treaty now sets the EU the specific aim of developing "common policies" for both asylum and immigration, including uniform standards for asylum. It also widens EU powers to define the rights of legal immigrants from outside the EU. In future, decisions on all these matters will be by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) which itself will be changed to make it more difficult to form a blocking minority. Finally, the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) into the Treaty will introduce greater uncertainty about the extent to which the European Court of Justice (ECJ) could overrule the decisions of British courts and those European immigration laws which Britain has opted into.

It is welcome that the government has retained its right to opt out from or opt in to EU proposals on asylum and immigration law. So far, Britain has "opted in" to virtually all EU Directives on asylum and illegal immigration but, in future, because of QMV, will have little or no control over how they might be amended or developed. The government have stayed out of the Schengen arrangements and other aspects of legal immigration but our room to conduct our own immigration policy could, as a result of the Treaty, be narrowed by decisions of the ECJ.

Commenting, Sir Andrew Green said "The Lisbon Treaty takes us completely in the wrong direction. It is clear, almost on a daily basis, that not only are our borders extremely porous but that, once someone has reached Britain, the chances of being removed are very remote. Adopting the Lisbon Treaty is going to make matters even worse, by adding a further legal channel, which can be used to challenge our own immigration policy.

‘The government are encouraging people to come to Britain as visitors, students or skilled workers but, when it comes to removing those who no longer have any right to remain here, the authorities are bound hand and foot by legal red tape designed, almost exclusively, to ensure the human rights of migrants while ignoring the interests of our own community".

1. This report was prepared for Migrationwatch by a consultant, Mr Geoffrey Fitchew, who was formerly a senior Treasury official, working on European and international financial questions and later Director General for Financial Institutions and Company Law in the European Commission (1986 to 1993). Subsequently, he was Head of the European Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, dealing with all aspects of European policy. He is strongly in favour of Britain’s continued membership of the EU, but was a supporter of the campaign against Britain adopting the Euro. He also supports the current campaign for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

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