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How we overturned Sala in the Court of Appeal

How we overturned Sala in the Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal (Etherton MR, Longmore LJ, Irwin LJ) heard the appeal against the findings in Sala yesterday. Those findings, briefly, are that by virtue of the discretion available to a decision-maker under regulation 17 of the Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2006, a decision on an application under regulation 8 is not a decision which concerns the applicant’s entitlement to be issued with a residence card. Therefore it is not an “EEA decision” under regulation 2 and so is not appealable under regulation 26.

Our position for the appellant was the same as the appellant’s position in Sala: that the regulations provide a right of appeal against an adverse decision on a regulation 8 application which is an EEA decision. The Secretary of State’s position had changed, however, from her position in Sala before the Upper Tribunal, when she agreed with our present position. She now contended (as is consistent with her updated guidance and the 2016 Regulations) that there is no right of appeal.

The court, having adjourned the matter in July, had allocated a day prior to the hearing for pre-reading. Evidently this time had been well spent because the court had established a road-map of the issues upon which they wanted to be addressed. They wanted to hear submissions on interpretation of the 2006 Regulations in isolation – i.e. without reference to the directive/treaty – before deciding if they needed to hear anything else.

Our submissions took us to just before lunch. The court, particularly the Master of the Rolls and Irwin LJ, were perplexed with the drafting of the regulations (not the first time the courts have had issues with the drafting of regulations, rules or legislation in this jurisdiction).

The respondent’s submissions started before lunch. We broke for lunch after the respondent’s lead counsel (Brian Kennelly QC) suggested that regulation 21, despite specifically referring to EEA decisions under that regulation, did not mean that a decision under that regulation was an EEA decision.

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After lunch the court heard a submission from the respondent that the reference to public policy grounds in regulation 20 had no connection to the public policy grounds in regulation 21. Counsel was then asked, in the absence of direct authority to support his position, whether he had had any submissions to rebut the provisions referred to by the appellant.

The court (particularly Longmore LJ) enquired why the respondent’s position had changed from the submissions she made in Sala. Specifically, Longmore LJ asked what it was about an extended family member having a right of appeal that scared the Home Secretary. This, being a policy decision, was not within the remit of her counsel to answer.

I pause here to suggest that the policy behind this change of heart goes to the underlying ‘hostile environment’ that the Home Secretary (and her predecessor) wishes to create for certain immigrants. The fewer rights of appeal that exist, the lower the number of ‘migrants’ that will be able to fully pursue any legitimate claims to remain in the country.

There was an interesting concession from Brian Kennelly QC that the 2016 Regulations were drafted as a result of the decision in Sala. There was a brief reply from lead counsel for the appellant, Ramby de Mello, following which the court decided to rise to consider how best to proceed. After a short period they re-entered and informed us that the appeal would be allowed on the interpretation ground. They did not need to hear from us on the other grounds – those grounds included matters relevant to a challenge to the 2016 Regulations, if necessary.

The effect of the decision is that all those appeals pending under the 2006 Regulations should now be able to proceed. Those that have resulted in notices of invalid appeal will need to be challenged. This point may be slightly academic now, in the sense that only the 2006 Regulations are directly affected, but the path to a challenge to the 2016 Regulations now exists.

A written decision is to follow so watch this space for further detailed analysis.

Before closing I would like to make a brief comment about the camaraderie I have witnessed at the Bar whilst dealing with this appeal. From Declan at Landmark Chambers (counsel in Sala), to Zane and Parminder at 12 Old Square, Alex at One Pump Court (formerly at Mansfield 1 Gray’s Inn Chambers), both Ramby and Manjit at No5 (and probably others) and Colin through this blog, many people have been very open to brainstorming ideas about properly formulating this challenge. The Bar is a competitive place but it is good to see that so many people can work together to achieve an ultimately beneficial end.

Rajiv Sharma
Rajiv specialises in Immigration, Asylum and Administrative Law with a particular emphasis on Human Rights at The 36 Group chambers.

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