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European Union (Accessions) Act 2003

Freedom of movement for workers

8.The Accession Treaty grants nationals of Cyprus and Malta the same rights to work in another Member State as are currently enjoyed by nationals of the existing Member States. Nationals of the eight relevant states, however, are subject to transitional provisions, set out in Annexes V, VI, VIII, IX, X, XII, XIII and XIV of the Act of Accession. These provisions are as follows:

  • for the first two years after accession (i.e. until 30 April 2006), Member States are free to apply national measures or bilateral agreements restricting the rights of nationals from the eight relevant states to work in their territories;

  • from 1 May 2006, Member States must either grant nationals from the eight relevant states the right to move freely for the purpose of work in accordance with Community law, or continue to apply national measures or bilateral agreements – up to 30 April 2009 (or 2011, in exceptional circumstances).

9.Prior to 1 May 2006, any Member State that has not imposed restrictions on free movement of workers from the eight relevant states, or has relaxed them in the interim, is free to impose them or re-impose them. After that date, any Member State that has granted the right of free movement in accordance with Community law can request the Commission to suspend in whole or in part the application of that law if the Member State undergoes or foresees disturbances to its labour market which could seriously threaten the standard of living or level of employment in a given region or occupation. Such suspensions can last at most until 30 April 2011.

10.In December 2002, the Government announced that it would grant nationals of the eight relevant states the same rights to work in the UK as are enjoyed by nationals of the existing Member States – from the date of accession. Section 2 of the Act provides a power to make regulations implementing this decision. It is the Government’s intention to lay regulations under this power, to take effect on 1 May 2004.

11.In the event of an unexpected threat to a region or occupational sector within the UK labour market, the following safeguards are available:

  • Under the normal rules governing subordinate legislation and subject to parliamentary procedure, the Government can re-impose restrictions on some or all of the eight relevant states by repealing or suspending the application of any regulations made under the Act; and

  • The Government can exclude nationals of one or more of the eight relevant states from the right to work in the UK under powers contained in the Act.

12.The Government does not expect that safeguards will be necessary, but intends to monitor closely the application of regulations made under the Act. As far as possible, this will be done through existing means of monitoring the labour market, such as the Labour Force Survey. The Government also intends to take into account the views of stakeholders, such as representatives of employers and employees, the devolved administrations and regional interests.

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