Friday

18th Jan 2019

Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens

EU state and government heads have warned that UK prime minister Theresa May’s initial offer on post-Brexit EU citizens’ rights is lacking in detail and fail to provide appropriate safeguards and certainty.

“My first impression is that the British offer is below expectations, and risks worsening the situation of citizens,” European Council president Donald Tusk said Friday (23 June), at the end of the two-day EU summit in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“But it’s going to be for our negotiating team to analyse it line-by-line,” Tusk added.

Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, said that May’s offer is a “good start, but we need to see the details”.

He added that he is concerned about “pitfalls” that might be created if details are not ironed out. “For example, what about non-EU citizens who are related to EU citizens? Everyone would like a situation where there is a blanket fair treatment of citizens,” Muscat said.

The Brexit issue did not take up much time during the two-day EU summit.

The EU leaders emphasised that Brexit talks should be conducted between the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the UK’s Brexit minister, David Davis, instead of at summits.

“The work of 27 member states should be given priority over Brexit negotiations,” German chancellor Angela Merkel said after the summit at a joint press conference with French president Emmanuel Macron.

Merkel called the British positions “a good start”. “But it was not a breakthrough.”

Macron said it is for Barnier to examine the offer.

The Irish premier, Leo Varadkar, called the British PM's proposal a “positive gesture”.

Echoing Muscat, Varadkar said leaders would like to see more details, for instance on what happens to family members of EU citizens who may wish to join them in the UK.

Earlier on Friday, Belgian prime minister Charles Michel called May’s proposals “particularly vague”. “We don’t want a cat in the bag,” he said, adding: “We want the rights of EU citizens to be permanently guaranteed.”

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said there were still “thousands of questions to ask”.

Reassurances

Theresa May laid out on Thursday to EU leaders the highlights of what she called a “fair and serious” offer for EU citizens living in the UK.

The plan would allow EU citizens already living in the UK to stay, and May insisted she does not want to break families apart.

A more detailed plan is due to be made public on Monday (26 June).

May’s offer was characterised as “pathetic” and “unacceptable” by a grassroots organisation, the3million, that represents EU citizens in the UK.

They would like to see a separate deal on their rights, so that even if there is no final Brexit deal, their rights would be “ring fenced”.

On Friday, May said she wanted to “reassure” those citizens, insisting: “No one will have to leave, we won’t be seeing families split apart.”

One of the outstanding questions is which public body will guarantee those rights after Brexit.

The EU wants the European Commission to monitor the implementation of those rights and have the European Court of Justice (ECJ) - the EU’s top court, which is despised by Brexiteers - to protect and enforce the rights.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker noted on Friday that he does not see the ECJ being excluded from the Brexit settlements, but it is for the negotiations to resolve.

In the meantime, George Osborne - the former UK finance minister and current editor of The Evening Standard newspaper - reported on Friday (23 June) that May, in the days following the referendum last year, was the only cabinet minister to block a unilateral offer to EU citizens, which would have ensured that they can remain in Britain.

David Cameron, the UK prime minister at that time, had prepared an offer to give EU citizens certainty after the Brexit referendum, but it was not supported by his home secretary, Theresa May.

Dutch liberal MEP Sophie In't Veld reacted to the report by tweeting: “Ruthless, heartless, calculating. Total disdain for human rights.”

Brexit-affected citizens want special deal on rights

Facing two years of uncertainty while Brexit negotiations are underway, EU and UK citizens caught up in the political battle want a separate agreement to secure their rights and future.

UK agrees to EU conditions on Brexit talks

In their first meeting, the EU's Michel Barnier and Brexit minister David Davis agreed that talks on future relations will start only when "sufficient progress" has been made on divorce proceedings.

UK previews offer on EU nationals' rights

EU nationals in the UK could get almost the same rights as British people after Brexit, but an EU deal might not happen, the British government has said.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Taking back control at home, not from EU

A year after British voters chose to leave the EU, "taking back control" from the bloc is firmly on the back-burner, as May government’s main ambition is its immediate survival.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Opinion

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

May on whistle-stop EU tour to seek new backstop pledges

The British prime minister dramatically delayed a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal at the last minute, as she faced defeat. Theresa May will now speed-tour EU capitals to try to secure further political guarantees.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Germany led way on EU human rights protection
  2. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  3. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  4. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  5. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  6. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  7. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  8. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us