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On 24 June 2016 UK Prime Minister David Cameron made a statement in Downing Street that sent shockwaves around Europe: a majority in the Brexit referendum voted to leave the European Union.


“The British people have voted to leave the European Union, and their will must be respected,” David Cameron stated, adding that he would resign as soon as his successor was chosen.

Since that statement, the right to live in the UK of three million people was thrown into disarray, amid conflicting reports.

Indeed, Colin Yeo, writing on the Free Movement Website, described it as “the biggest mass expulsion of population since 1290, when Edward I infamously ordered the Jews of England into exile.”

What is free movement?


Free movement is a principle enshrined in Article 45 of the ‘Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union’.

Ultimately, free movement gives European Union, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens the right to move freely throughout the EU, EEA and Swiss territory.

It affords people lawfully in any of those member states the right to be treated the same as any citizens of the country.

Freedom of movement allows people access to training, access to employment, working conditions, taxation, access to trade unions as well as access to education, housing, and education for their children.

Article 45 gives citizens of member states the right to work in any member territories without a work permit and live there even after employment ends.

When does free movement officially end in the UK?


Freedom of movement in the UK ends on 1 January 2021, when the UK’s new points-based system takes the place of free movement.

The UK Government claims the new immigration system “will deliver a firmer and fairer immigration system for the whole of the UK.”

Why does free movement matter?


Freedom of movement is one of the four fundamental rights of the European single market; the others are the free movement of services, goods and capital.

Those freedoms were established 63 years ago in the Treaty of Rome.

And while it initially aimed to encourage travel to fill jobs after the second world war and avoid European conflict, it transformed into an all-encompassing amalgamation of rights and privileges under the EU umbrella.

In the six decades since it was founded, the treaty allowed EU citizens to travel throughout member states, retire to different countries and the freedom to enjoy all the privileges afforded to citizens in each member state.

The right to free movement also helped member’s economies; for example, if a member state had a skills shortage; it could attract high-calibre employees from other member countries.

And it also helped EU citizens in states where an economy was struggling; citizens could travel elsewhere in the EU territory to find work.

Who does free movement apply to?


Free movement applies to all EU nationals and their families.

What programmes will be affected by the end of free movement?


The Erasmus programmes look set to suffer as a consequence of Brexit.

The EU programme provides opportunities for over four million European citizens to train, study and gain experience abroad.

The popular European-wide programme has given opportunities to two million students in higher education, 650,000 students taking part in vocational education and saw 800,000 lecturers, teachers and staff participating.

The future of the Erasmus programme for UK students is unclear, with the Erasmus website commenting, “The possible participation of the UK in future programmes after 2020 will depend on the outcome of the overall negotiations on the future relationship between the two parties.’’

Priti Patel this month celebrated,  ‘’After many years of campaigning, I am delighted the Immigration Bill which will end free movement on 31st December has today passed through Parliament. We are delivering on the will of the British people.’’

The victory speeches and familiar rhetoric are short lived or in fact insulting to many who see the Immigration Bill ending the rights of millions of EU citizens, to freely choose to make the UK their home and to contribute fully to society here.  Millions have already done so and mayn are in fact experiencing difficulties in applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.   To express ‘delight’ to many EU citizens is to twist the knife in.

The decades of caselaw that has been built up to determine and define Free Movement within the EU territories will be lost. What lies ahead for practitioners is daunting. The possibility that our children will feel less connected to their European neighbours might soon become a reality.  How will language, the arts, culture be impacted as free movement slides away?  Only time will tell.

If you want to find out more about Irish citizenship, Brexit and immigration matters, contact our immigration team:

Granite Immigration Law

Granite Immigration Law is part of Granite Legal Services which is a newly established business law practice in Newry City. Our solicitors are UK / Irish dual qualified. We have a dedicated immigration team working on individual and business immigration matters covering a wide range of matters from citizenship to employment permits and EU Treaty Rights.

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