Theresa May offers to let 3mn EU citizens remain in UK after Brexit
The prime minister unveiled her much-awaited proposals for EU migrants in the UK at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday evening.
May, however, shunned calls from the Labour Party to unilaterally agree on a plan for the rights of EU migrants in the UK. The PM has instead made the offer contingent on the EU giving the same treatment to UK citizens living in the bloc.
“The UK’s position represents a fair and serious offer, and one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society,” May said.
The Tory leader, however, opposed the EU’s request that the European Court of Justice should have the power to enforce the rights of the 3.2 million European expats in the UK and the estimated 1.2 million Britons currently living in the bloc.
“The commitment we will make will be enshrined in UK law, and enforceable through our highly respected courts,” the PM remarked.
Those who have already been in living in the UK for at least five years will be given a “settled status,” meaning they are automatically entitled to stay and enjoy the same rights as British citizens, including access to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.
Those who have not been in the UK for more than five years will be given the chance to meet the five-year threshold for to stay in the UK.
The same right to stay, however, will not be guaranteed to EU migrants arriving after the cut-off date, which is yet to be agreed on. Under the newly-proposed plans it could be anytime between March 29 this year, when the PM formally kicked-off the two-year Brexit negotiating process, and the UK’s deadline to exit the EU, which is March 30, 2019.
Those who arrive after the cut-off date will still have a “grace period” of two years, during which they may settle their legal status in the UK.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the proposals, but said there are still many arrangements to be made.
“Theresa May made clear to us today that EU citizens that have been in Britain for five years will retain their full rights. That is a good start,” Merkel told reporters.
“But there are still many, many other questions linked to the exit, including on finances and the relationship with Ireland.
“So we have a lot to do until [the next EU summit in] October.”
May’s proposals, however, which will be fully released on Monday, have received some criticism as they fail to detail what will happen to relatives of EU expats in the UK who live abroad, as well as give a precise cut-off date.
British people living in the EU are also concerned about how a reciprocal deal may turn out.
EU Parliament President Jean-Claude Juncker said that while the offer represents a step forward, it was not “sufficient.”
But May has also received criticism from opposition parties back home.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, said the offer is just “too little, too late.”
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas also hit out at the Tory leader, whose popularity has tumbled since the general election, in which she lost her party majority in the House of Commons.
A group representing EU migrants in the UK has spoken out against May’s proposal, calling it “pathetic” and far from the detailed offer set out by the EU earlier this year.
“There is something slightly pathetic about the prime minister’s proposal which makes no reference to the detailed, comprehensive offer tabled by the EU,” said Nicolas Hatton, founder of the grassroots group the3million.
“The prime minister described her proposal as fair and serious. It’s neither fair nor serious.”