Lots in the newspapers today about the failure of the government’s attempt to deport an Italian citizen back to Italy when his prison sentence for murder is completed. The government appears to have assumed that its powers to expel undesirables extends to Italians, but thanks to the EU, the government’s powers are constrained by law.

Italians are EU citizens and have the right freely to come to the UK. Even when they live in Italy, they can cast votes and elect politicians who have a direct say in the law that affects the UK. The traditional notion of absolute separation between countries doesn’t quite apply any more.

There is still a residual power for EU member states to expel each other’s nationals, but a European directive (the Citizens Directive) spells out the circumstances in which they might do this and thus limits their ability to do so. Specifically, an individual would have to be a “genuine present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society”, namely “public policy, public security or public health.”

In the case of our Italian, if he were any of those, he wouldn’t be let out of prison in the first place. If he is an anti-social danger in the UK, how much more of a danger would he be in Italy where he has no family and does not speak the language? A problem shared may be a problem halved, but not a problem simply deported.

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