May defends ‘fair and serious offer’ to EU nationals living in UK

May defends ‘fair and serious offer’ to EU nationals living in UK

Theresa May has defended her plan to protect the rights of the three million EU nationals living in the UK, saying it was a “fair and serious” offer.
At the end of a two-day summit in Brussels, the Prime Minister said she would be looking for similar assurances for UK citizens in the EU.
“I want all those EU citizens who are in the UK, who have made their lives and homes in our country, to know that no-one will have to leave,” she said.
“We won’t be seeing families split apart, people will be able to go on living their lives as before. This is a fair and serious offer.”
“It gives those three million EU citizens in the UK certainty about the future of their lives and we want the same certainty for the more than one million UK citizens who are living in the European Union.”
However, the plan set out by Mrs May received a frosty response from some other leaders, with European Council president Donald Tusk saying it fell “below expectations”.
Mr Tusk said: “My first impression is that the UK offer is below our expectations and risks worsening the situation of citizens.”
“It will be for our negotiating team to analyse the offer line-by-line once we receive it on paper.”
Mr Tusk said that Brexit had taken up “very little time” in the two-day summit.
Mrs May acknowledged there were “differences” between her proposals for settling the future rights of expats after Brexit and those put forward by the European Commission.
“The matter will now go into the negotiations. I have said all along that I wanted this issue of citizens’ rights to be one of the first issues addressed in the formal negotiations and indeed it will be,” she said.
Under the proposals which Mrs May outlined to fellow leaders on Thursday, settled status will be available to all EU nationals who have been in the UK for five years, granting them the same rights as British citizens to healthcare, education, welfare benefits and pensions.
Those with a shorter period of residency will be able to stay on to reach the five-year threshold and those arriving after a yet-to-be-defined cut-off date will have a “grace period” to regularise their status.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the proposals represented “a good start” but cautioned there were “many, many other issues” before Britain could reach agreement on a withdrawal deal.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there were “thousands of questions to ask” about Mrs May’s proposals, and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern described them as “a first step”, which did not cover the situations of many EU citizens in the UK.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called it a “particularly vague proposal”. Using a Flemish phrase to describe a dubious gift, he said: “We don’t want a cat in the bag. We want the rights of EU citizens to be permanently guaranteed.”
Mrs May again set her face against the idea that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) could enforce EU citizens’ rights, an idea which is part of the formal proposal already tabled by Brussels.
Asked by a Polish journalist to address the issue of ECJ jurisdiction, Mrs May said of her meeting with the country’s PM Beata Szydlo: “We had a very positive discussion about the offer that the UK had made to EU citizens and indeed other leaders have also reacted positively to me on the offer that we have made.”
“The question of how we enforce the rights that we would be enshrining, as I say we want to see a reciprocal deal for UK citizens in the EU, but the question of enforcement is of course one that will be taken into the negotiations.”
“But from our point of view, these will be enforced, they will be enshrined in UK law, they will be enforced through the highly respected UK courts and of course if this is an aspect of the withdrawal treaty then it will be enshrined in international law as well.”
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told a Brussels press conference it was “inconceivable” to him that the ECJ could be locked out of any judicial role in the future treatment of EU citizens in the UK.
Mr Tusk said: “It is obvious that the impact of Brexit on citizens’ rights is negative and our role is to reduce this negative… effect of Brexit.
“If you compare the current level of citizens’ rights and what we have heard from the British Prime Minister, it is obvious that this is about reducing the citizens’ rights, the EU citizens in the UK.
“Our role in the negotiations is to reduce this risk.”
Maltese PM Joseph Muscat, who is completing a six-month stint as rotating president of the Council, described the proposals as a “good start”, but added: “My concern is that we might be creating pitfalls if the details are not really well ironed out.”
He raised concerns EU citizens would be treated differently under Mrs May’s plans depending on the date of their arrival in the UK, and that it was unclear whether non-EU spouses of EU nationals would be able to stay with them in Britain.

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