BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain should scrap entry visas for some non-Europeans, the EU’s top court said on Thursday in a ruling immediately seized upon by the anti-immigration UKIP party as ammunition against Prime Minister David Cameron.
Considering the case of a Colombian living in southern Spain with her British husband, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that under EU laws on free movement Britain could not oblige Helena Patricia McCarthy Rodriguez to seek a visa from its consulate in Madrid when she wanted to travel to Britain.
The immediate family members of EU citizens resident in EU states other than their home country were entitled to the same freedom to travel as their relatives, the Court said.
As Cameron arrived in Brussels for an EU summit, the Conservative prime minister’s spokesman said the government disagreed but would wait for an opinion from its own High Court, which passed the matter to the ECJ, before responding.
Cameron, who faces an election in May, has made greater national control of migration a key objective. He wants to review Britain’s relations with the European Union and has promised, if re-elected, to hold a referendum in 2017 on whether Britain should remain in the bloc.
The anti-EU UK Independence Party, riding high in polls, said residence permits in other EU states were subject to abuse and so the ruling showed Cameron’s pledge to control British borders with the rest of the bloc was “naive or dishonest”.
Cameron’s spokesman said: “The reason we have a system where we seek visas is because there is not a uniform consistency across other EU countries of the residence cards.”
The EU judges ruled that Britain should accept McCarthy Rodriguez’s Spanish residence permit unless it had specific grounds to believe it was not genuine.
Additional reporting by William James in London; Editing by Mark Trevelyan