Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

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.

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

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. Hungary blames conspiracy for EU corruption rating
  2. Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?
  3. EU lobby register still riddled with errors
  4. Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk
  5. More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies
  6. Study: EU electricity transition sped into high gear in 2022
  7. Russia and China weaponised pandemic to sow distrust, MEPs hear
  8. Frontex to spend €100m on returning migrants this year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us