Brussels has launched legal action against Britain for “failure to comply” with EU rules on free movement.
The European Commission sent an official notification to Britain – the first stage of the violation process – giving the Government four months to “overcome the deficiencies” that had been identified.
The violation process is launched when an EU country fails to apply EU law, and can cause the European Court to impose financial penalties.
Britain has failed to “comply with EU law regarding the free movement of EU citizens and their family members”, according to a violation decision.
It stated: “UK national law limits the scope of beneficiaries of EU free movement law in the UK and the possibility for EU citizens and their family members to appeal administrative decisions that limit the right of free movement.
“The Commission considers that the United Kingdom has violated the Free Movement Directive 2004/38 / EC as well as EU rules on the freedom of movement of EU citizens (Article 21 TFEU), freedom of movement of workers (Article 45 TFEU) and freedom of establishment (Article 49 TFEU).
“European Union legislation regarding the free movement of people continues to apply in and in the UK as if it were still an EU Member State during the transition period.
“Furthermore, the rights of EU citizens resident in Britain after the end of the transition period, as stipulated in the Withdrawal Agreement, are built on the rights they currently enjoy in the UK under EU regulations.”
He added: “Britain’s shortcomings in the implementation and transposition of legal risks to the EU free movement therefore also affect the implementation of the rights of citizens under the Withdrawal Agreement after the end of the transition period.
“For this reason, the Commission decided to send an official notification letter to Britain – the first step in the violation process.
“Britain now has four months to take the actions needed to overcome the deficiencies identified by the Commission. If not, the Commission can send reasoned opinions to British authorities. “
Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said at a press conference in Brussels: “In this particular case, the commission considers that Britain has failed to notify the last five legislative instruments for the transposition of free movement directives, its national rules transforming the protection prescribed by directives for certain individual decisions that limit free movement, as well as the correspondence table.
“Substantially, the commission is of the view that Britain has, over the last few years, limited the scope of beneficiaries of EU free movement legislation in the UK as well as the possibility for EU citizens and their family members to appeal administrative decisions restricting the right to free movement. “
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We will see what the EU says and we will respond in due course.”
Britain officially left the European Union on 31 January but is now in a transition period as long as it follows Brussels rules without having a say in how they are made.
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