As the British political and media machinery do their best to whip up hysteria over the extension of free movement rights to Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, this seems like an excellent time to point out a right that those migrants have that you, dear British citizen, do not: the right to fall in love with anyone. And it’s all because of the demonisation of immigrants.

Under Directive 2004/38/EC, a citizen of an EU country (in fact, of an EEA country or Switzerland) has the right to bring their spouse to join them:

If you have a right to live the in the UK, your family may join you here. Your family is defined as:

  • your spouse (husband or wife) or civil partner;
  • any children or grandchildren of you, your spouse or your civil partner who are under 21 years of age or who are dependent on you; and
  • the parents or grandparents of you, your spouse or your civil partner.

For British citizens, however, stricter rules apply, including, since July 2012, a minimum income requirement:

You must have an income of at least £18,600.

If you are sponsoring a child as well as a partner you will need an income of at least £22,400.

For each additional child being sponsored you will need an additional income of £2,400.

(There is a route around this: you can live in another European country for three months in order to assert your free movement rights. Whether this is practical for someone in a low-paid job is another question.)

So, why is this the case? It’s because the Conservative party, targeting the floating xenophobe vote, made a rather stupid pre-election promise to cap net immigration, and as the government can’t control emigration or European migration, they’ve clamped down the things they can, like letting people live with their spouses.

When you allow politicians to use the spectre of the Other for their own ends, it’s not just outsiders who lose.

So remember, if you’re unlucky enough to be British and not rich, take care who you fall in love with. Or start working to change the current toxic narrative on immigration in the UK.