It has been written that Theresa May plans to end the free movement of European Migrants entering the UK permanently when Article 50 has been triggered. Because this date is before Britain leaves the EU officially:

  • Wouldn't it be against the Human Rights of said migrants if they do restrict free-movement? or are they able to restrict free-movement before Britain has officially left the EU?
  • 3
    The problem with human rights is that it is not a universally agreed upon set of rights. I might think freedom of movement is a human right, you might not, and Bob might think somewhere in the middle. On top of that there are no international laws that are binding that define a right to movement. In short, just because Wiki says its a human right doesn't mean that a nation can't restrict its borders. Feb 27, 2017 at 14:51
  • @DavidGrinberg So it doesn't conflict with any policy applicable to the between UK and EU? I.e. European Convention of Human Rights or any of the sort? Or its just down to the discretion of the country restricting the freedom of movement? Feb 27, 2017 at 14:55
  • @DavidGrinberg, Bradley: the problem with the framing of this question is that the general right of freedom of movement recognized by most countries is not particularly relevant to European Union freedom of movement. That is instead a right that flows from the treaties that form the EU, and specifically concerns the right of citizens to move between member states of the EU.
    – phoog
    Feb 27, 2017 at 15:11
  • 1
    @Venture2099 I agree that the question would probably get better answers at Law, but it doesn't seem to be actually off topic here.
    – phoog
    Feb 27, 2017 at 15:58
  • 2
    Wouldn't it be against the Human Rights of said migrants if they do restrict free-movement? That assumes that the freedom to move around, especially across borders, is part of "human rights". I don't think you have established that.
    – dannyf
    Feb 27, 2017 at 16:28

1 Answer 1


If you go follow to the [1] footnote from your link, you get:

Freedom of movement within a country encompasses both the right to travel freely within the territory of the State and the right to relocate oneself and to choose one's place of residence"

Note the within a country and how it talks about the State and not any State.

Basically, it means that you can:

  • move anywhere in your country (for example, you are not forced to live near a farming field so you are left with no recourse but to farm that land for the landlord1).

  • move to another country that accepts you with the security that your own country will not deny you the possibility of travel.

  • move back to the country you are a citizen of whenever you want.

It does not mean that other countries have any obligation at all of accepting you2 if they do not want to.

In fact, the Wikipedia article explains all of that in a rather clear way in its very first section.

About the Theresa May article, it does not mean what you say.

Once the UK exits the EU, all of the EU nationals residing in the UK will no longer have the automatic right of residence/work in the UK, as EU treaty obligations will no longer apply.

May declaration means that she is planning to negotiate that EU citizens residing in the UK will keep its residence/work rights if the EU also keeps the residence/work rights of UK residents in the EU. But that she wants such a deal to include only EU citizens living the UK before article 50 is triggered, and not those that arrive later.

1 As happened with serfs.

2 Asylum seekers and refugees are covered by other international laws.


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