LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said it would introduce new rules from January to bar entry to people from the European Union with a criminal record, meaning those from the bloc would be treated the same as the rest of the world.
The powers will come into force from Jan. 1 when Britain’s informal membership of the EU ends and it no longer has to abide by the bloc’s rules on free movement.
“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,” Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel said.
“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 rule.”
The changes, which will be laid before parliament on Thursday, will mean foreign criminals sentenced to at least one year in jail will be banned from entering Britain, while those with shorter sentences might also be barred depending on their individual cases.
Those who have not been given a jail term could also be refused entry if they are persistent offenders, or have a conviction of any kind in the previous 12 months and have not entered Britain before.
The government said the rules, which would not apply to EU citizens covered by measures in the Brexit divorce deal, are part of measures designed to toughen Britain’s borders. Controlling immigration was one of the key factors for Britons voting in 2016 in favour of leaving the bloc.
However, police and security officials have warned Britain would be less safe if no agreement on future ties with the EU can be agreed before Dec. 31 when the transition period ends.
The announcement also comes after London’s Court of Appeal ruled earlier on Wednesday that it was unlawful for the government to forcibly deport migrants with as little as 72 hours notice.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)