Commission launches infringement proceedings against UK over free movement

The move, which is the latest sign of tension between the EU and UK, alleges that the UK has failed to comply with EU law on the free movement of EU citizens and their family members.
Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

18 May 2020

The European Commission said that UK national legislation limits the scope of beneficiaries of EU free movement law in Britain as well as the possibilities for EU citizens and their family members to appeal administrative decisions restricting free movement rights.

EU law on free movement of persons continues to apply in the UK as if it were still an EU Member State during the transition period, due to end on 31 December.

In a statement, the executive said that the rights of the estimated 3.5 million EU citizens resident in the UK after the end of the transition period, as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, are built on the rights that they currently enjoy in the UK under EU rules.


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It goes on to say that the UK shortcomings in the implementation and transposition of EU free movement law risks therefore also affecting the implementation of the citizens' rights after the end of the transition period.

“For these reasons, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK - the first step in the infringement process.”

“The UK now has four months to take the necessary measures to address the shortcomings identified by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the UK authorities.”

Citizens’ rights following the end of the current transition period is one of the key issues yet to be resolved between the two sides. The issue is a red line for the European Parliament, which must sign off on any deal.

“The UK now has four months to take the necessary measures to address the shortcomings identified by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may send a reasoned opinion to the UK authorities” European Commission

In a further development on Friday, it emerged that UK government minister Michael Gove, in a letter to the European Commission, warns that the health crisis had diverted the attention of many European governments from implementing the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which aims to protect the rights of an estimated 1.2 million British nationals in the EU and 3.5 million Europeans in the UK.

Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, writes that there is “a serious risk that the EU will not fulfil its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement by the time the transition period ends on 31 December 2020”.

Separately, the UK government has been warned by the Commission that it could face legal action over its plans to impose a 14-day quarantine on people arriving in the UK. Ireland and France are exempt, but the EU says this is discriminatory to the other EU Member States.

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