EU to veto Brexit if Theresa May fails to protect citizens’ rights, Brussels sources say
EU diplomats are threatening to veto any Brexit deal if Theresa May doesn’t backtrack on her “shameful” plans to deprive EU citizens of free movement rights during a transition period, it has been claimed.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday during a three-day trip to China, the prime minister left audiences baffled when she seemed to suddenly toughen her stance on EU migrants. May said she wanted to make it “clear” that EU citizens arriving after the UK effectively drops out of the EU – set for March 2019 – will be treated differently from those who are already settled.
Resisting the much-spread idea that nothing would change post-Brexit, May said: “What we’re doing now is doing the job that the British people asked the government to do, which is to deliver on Brexit.” She added: “In doing that they did not vote for nothing to change when we come out of the EU.”
May’s comments sparked a wave of criticism from both the EU and the UK. Reporter and columnist for the Independent Shehab Khan said he had sources in Brussels who warned they would resist any Brexit offer if EU citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of movement was not protected.
I have personally spoken to several European politicians and they have ALL said if citizens' rights are lessened they will veto the deal. I was told it is the European Parliament's number one priority - it is the reddest of red lines.— Shehab Khan (@ShehabKhan) February 1, 2018
The EU Parliament’s coordinator for Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, rebuked May, stating citizens’ rights are “not negotiable.”
“Citizens’ rights during the transition is not negotiable. We will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing acquis with no exceptions,” Verhofstadt posted on Twitter.
Various political figures and commentators also took to Twitter to express their dismay at May’s statement, with many raising concerns it would trigger tit-for-tat punitive measures from the EU.
Labour peer Andrew Adonis branded the plans “shameful.”
Statement by the PM that ‘we’ have got to take rights away from EU citizens next May because ‘that is what the British people voted for’ is utterly shameful. The face was Mrs May, the words Mr Farage.— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) February 1, 2018
Others vented their frustration at a transition deal being further delayed by the latest row.
May says she won’t extend EU citizens’ rights in any transition period. To get the transition she’ll have to back down - this just wastes time, and sets us up for further embarrassment. It’s also just plain wrong. Still the Daily Express is happy, so job done for the PM.— Seb Dance MEP (@SebDance) February 1, 2018
While others cautioned it would undermine British citizens’ rights abroad.
Theresa May's plan to discriminate against EU-27 citizens after March next year could be mirrored from that date by the EU-27.British citizens living in Spain, France etc should prepare for difficult times.— Politics & consequences (@politfx) February 1, 2018
A campaign group for the rights of EU and UK citizens post-Brexit tweeted:
.@theresa_may put an end to your hypocrisy; stop making promises & giving ‘guarantees’ - saying one thing & doing another on #citizensrights; and please stop wrecking the lives of #UKinEU & #EUinUK by forcing them to ‘apply’ for some of the rights they have been ‘GIVEN’ by the EU— Citizens Rights 2018 (@CitizensLobby17) February 1, 2018
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