Theresa May is proposing to remove the exception to deporting convicted criminals on the grounds that they have a family tie to the UK and to do so would be in breach of the ECHR.
This exception was brought into the UK immigration laws as a result of the UK Borders Act 2007, passed by Labour, and was seen as being too lenient on foreign criminals who, but for their family connections would definitely meet the criteria for deportation. This exception is viewed by the current government as resulting in too many convicted criminals being allowed to remain in the UK, and thus causing a rise in the number of people who should have been deported. They feel that this is detrimental for the UK.
While it is essential for the UK to have tough border controls to ensure that the size of the population can be managed, the ECHR is aimed at giving rights and privileges to citizens of Europe. This includes both citizens of that country, as well as citizens of another European country. If the measure cannot be applied to UK nationals, because there is nowhere to deport them, then it will be difficult to prove that the measure is justified under EU law.
The measure is directed at convicted criminals, but where will the line be drawn? Which level of crime will be sufficient to cause deportation? Furthermore, this could lead to difficulties in immigration cases, where the asylum seeker has a criminal record abroad. This is because, in some cases, the reason the individual is seeking asylum is because of a corrupt government who give out convictions to political rivals. In these cases, would it be just to remove these individuals’ rights?
May has a difficult task ahead, but in many ways, based on the free movement of persons stance taken by EU law and other proposals on softer border controls in Europe; there is a need for a tough control from the UK. If the UK is pulling in a different direction to the EU at the same level of force, then the likelihood is that the end result will be somewhere in the middle: softer border controls to allow families to be citizens of Europe and not just of one country, but without the cost of allowing many convicted criminals to remain in the UK, on sometimes fanciful familial connections.