Tuesday

17th Jul 2018

May defends proposal on EU citizens' rights

  • May (r) said British people voted to “take back control of our laws, our money and our borders" (Photo: UK Parliament/flickr)

Britain has said EU nationals and their relatives can apply for “settled status” after Brexit, but the EU said the offer lacked “ambition, clarity”.

British prime minister Theresa May told parliament on Monday (26 June) that the arrangements would give “reassurance and certainty” to the 3.2 million EU citizens who lived in the UK.

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.

... our join as a group

  • Barnier (r) has said the EU court should be able to protect EU nationals' rights (Photo: European Commission)

“We want you to stay”, she said.

“No families will be split up,” she added.

She said British people, in last year’s referendum, voted to “take back control of our laws, our money and our borders, to restore supremacy to this parliament”, but not to “turn our backs on our friends and neighbours” in the EU.

The UK the same day published details of its “settled status” offer.

EU nationals who get settled status would have the same rights as British citizens except the right to vote, the offer said.

All 3.2 million would have to apply for it online in a “streamlined digital process” with fees to be set “at a reasonable level”.

Eligibility

They would be eligible if they had lived in the UK for five years or more prior to a cut-off date which remained to be agreed.

But they would be subject to “an assessment of conduct and criminality, including not being considered a threat to the UK”.

They would also lose their settled status if they were in future “absent from the UK for more than two years, unless they have strong ties here.”

Their relatives could stay or come over from the EU if they “have been in a genuine relationship with an eligible EU citizen while resident in the UK”.

But if they married a non-UK citizen in future, their wives or husbands would have to meet a minimum income threshold in order to join them.

Meanwhile, those who moved to Britain more recently than five years ago could apply for “temporary status” before they got their “settled” rights.

There would also be a two-year “grace period” for late applications so that there would be, in May’s words, “no cliff edge” in people’s lives.

The British document ruled out any role for EU courts, an earlier EU demand.

“The arrangements … will be enshrined in UK law and enforceable through the UK judicial system, up to and including the Supreme Court”, it said.

In other details, it said the UK would recognise EU nationals’ pre-Brexit professional qualifications.

It also said EU students in British universities could complete their courses, but did not say if they would have the right to subsequently work in the UK.

EU reaction

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said on Twitter on Monday that there was “More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today’s UK position.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, said “a number of limitations remain worrisome and will have to be carefully assessed.”

Her added that “any degradation of the rights linked to freedom of movement” would be “contrary to union law”.

May’s handling of the EU negotiation also prompted rebuke in the British parliament, where Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said she had used EU citizens’ rights as “bargaining chips”.

“Can the prime minister now confirm what will happen to her offer to nationals in this country if no deal is reached [with the EU]?”, he asked.

He said her political mandate in the UK was “in tatters” after she lost her parliamentary majority in elections earlier this month.

He also said British voters had “rejected in large numbers” her threat to to turn the UK into “an offshore tax haven aimed at undercutting the European Union by ripping up regulation, hacking back public services”.

May's tactics

May replied to Corbyn by saying that she had to play hard-ball in the EU talks.

“I worry about those who appear to suggest in Europe that we should be punished in some sense for leaving”, she said.

She said Corbyn was among those “who say we should take any deal, regardless of the bill and regardless of the circumstances”.

May, who earlier on Monday secured the backing of the DUP, a Northern Irish unionist party, to stay in power, defended the idea of excluding the EU court from oversight.

She said the EU’s proposal amounted to saying there would be “two classes of citizens” in the UK - “UK citizens, whose rights would be guaranteed by the UK courts; and EU citizens, whose rights would be guaranteed by the European Court of Justice”.

“Our courts are world-renowned - they are respected around the world”, she said.

UK visitors to pay into EU budget after Brexit

The EU Commission says extra revenue generated from a new visa-free travel scheme, to launch in 2020, would go to the EU budget, reducing member state contributions.

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.

British firms will 'beg' for EU court

Koen Lenaerts, the president of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, said British firms will want the court to enforce their rights post-Brexit.

UK leaves fishing convention amid Brexit talks

The UK announced it would leave the London fisheries convention, which allows mutual fishing close to the coast, arguing that it is taking back control of its waters. But Brussels warns: Brexit talks will decide that.

EU stays calm as two top UK ministers quit

EU officials said Brexit negotiations will not be affected by the resignations of the foreign secretary and Brexit secretary. European Council president Tusk noted that "unfortunately the idea of Brexit hasn't left" with David Davis or Boris Johnson.

Opinion

Brexit - why can't we just swipe left?

The entire Brexit debate since at least 2015 has been like a bad date. But this is the age of Tinder, why can't we just swipe left?

News in Brief

  1. VW owners to get diesel software update free until 2020
  2. Airbnb breaches EU consumer rules, Commission says
  3. EU sees no China free-trade talks
  4. Italy accepts migrant boat after help promises
  5. EU opens case on Siemens' Alstom buyout
  6. Trump: May found my Brexit advice 'too brutal'
  7. Italy will reject EU-Canada trade deal, says deputy PM
  8. Commission: Juncker suffered from sciatica attack at Nato

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU and China agree on words, not yet on action
  2. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  3. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  4. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK
  5. EU and China edge closer in Trump's 'America First' world
  6. How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism
  7. Stage set for Trump-Putin finale
  8. Trump scuppers trade deal with UK under May's Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us