United Kingdom fails to comply with EU rules on free movement
Friday, 15 May 2020
The European Commission announced yesterday that it has started infringement procedures against the United Kingdom for breaching the Free Movement Directive and EU rules on freedom of movement of EU citizens.
EU law on free movement of persons continues to apply to and in the United Kingdom (UK) as if it were still an EU member state during the transition period. Furthermore, the rights of 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 United Kingdom under EU rules.
According to the Commission, UK’s several shortcomings in the implementation and transposition of EU free movement law in recent years risks also affecting the implementation of the citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement after the end of the transition period.
“If there was ever a clear sign that EU citizens need a Green Card to guarantee their rights, it’s the decision by the European Commission to launch infringement proceedings against the UK government for breaching the rights of EU citizens,” said Roger Casale, Secretary General of Brussels and London based NGO New Europeans, to The Brussels Times.
“The Withdrawal Agreement that was concluded between the UK and the EU should mean that the rights of EU citizens in the UK are ring-fenced and guaranteed. If the Withdrawal Agreement isn’t being upheld by the UK during the transition period, what confidence can EU citizens in the UK have about what might happen when the transition period ends?”
According to statements today (15 May) by the Brexit negotiators for the EU and the UK, Michel Barnier and David Frost, there has been no progress in their discussions on the future relationship between the two sides, as a deadline approaches at the end of June.
The decision on the UK was part of a package of infringement procedures (14 May) taken against almost EU member states in all policy areas for failing to transpose and comply with EU law. As regards the UK, the first step in the procedures was taken by sending a letter of formal notice to its government.
The second step is a “reasoned opinion” where the Commission requests the country in question to comply with EU law. If that also fails, the Commission may decide to refer the country to the Court of Justice. However, in the majority of infringement cases, member states comply with their obligations under EU law before they are referred to the Court.
Normally the response time to the first two steps is two months but because of the coronavirus crisis the Commission has extended the deadline to four months.