A tepid reception from EU leaders was met, who stressed that many issues remain unresolved, to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal to safeguard residency rights of European Union citizens currently living in the U.K.
Saying she wanted to offer them as much certainty as possible about their futures, almost all 3 million EU citizens in the U.K. will be able to continue living there after Brexit, May told EU leaders over dinner at a summit in Brussels.
Before trade talks can be broached leading up to Britain’s March 2019 exit from the bloc, citizens’ rights is one of the main issues that the EU and U.K. need to resolve. EU leaders withheld judgment on the proposal, choosing to wait for the release of the full plan on Monday, even though the prime minister emphasized that she didn’t want to break up families or deport anyone who currently lives in the U.K.
“The U.K.’s position represents a fair and serious offer,” May said. “One aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the U.K., building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society.”
They’re likely to object to May’s insistence that questions over their rights should be adjudicated in British courts, wBottom of Form
hile the proposal will go a long way toward meeting what EU leaders wanted for their citizens. Saying only that it will be some time between March 29, 2017, when it began the departure process, and the date it actually leaves, the U.K. is also leaving open the question of the “cut off date” from which the rights will no longer apply.
“It’s a first good step which we appreciate,” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said after the meeting. “But there are so many details left open and a lot of citizens of Europe are concerned and not covered with the proposal of Mrs. May, so there is a long, long way for negotiations.”
On Monday afternoon, when May makes a statement to Parliament, the details of the proposal will be published by the government.
EU citizens are essentially divided into three groups due to the government proposal. Residents in the U.K. for five years before the cut-off date will be treated like U.K. citizens on questions of health care, education, welfare and pensions. Allowed to stay until they have clocked up five years’ residence, and then apply for settled status, will be those with less than five years’ residence before the cut-off date. A “grace period” of around two years to allow them to apply for legal status to remain would be given to those who arrive in the U.K. between the cut-off date and the date the U.K. leaves the EU.
In a shift away from the lengthy documents the Home Office currently asks applicants to fill out, May also promised that the application system for settled status will be streamlined “light touch” and use digital tools.
“This is a good start, but there are still many, many other questions,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters.
(Adapted from Bloomberg)