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Theresa May’s plans for EU citizens ‘vague’ and ‘inadequate’ - EU leaders

4 min read

Senior European figures have branded Theresa May’s offer aimed at protecting the right of EU citizens as “not sufficient” and “vague”, calling on the Prime Minister to go further.

More than three million EU nationals would be given the right to stay in the UK after Brexit, under proposals unveiled by Mrs May last night. 

The Prime Minister said "settled status" would be offered to those who had been living in Britain for at least five years. 

Meanwhile EU nationals who have been in the UK for less than five years before the cut-off will have the chance to stay until they are eligible for settled status.

In return, the Prime Minister said "reciprocal" arrangements must be offered to the 900,000 British citizens living on the continent.

The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker urged the Prime Minister to go further, branding her move a “first step, but this step is not sufficient” as he arrived at a leaders’ summit this morning.

When asked if any light had been shed on the kind of Brexit Mrs May is after, he said: “No.” 

Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, branded the proposal “particularly vague”.

He suggested leaders should be wary of the offer until the UK's position is laid out in full, adding “we don’t want a cat in the bag”.

“We want the rights of EU citizens to be permanently guaranteed,” he added.

European Parliament's lead negotiator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, tweeted that the offer does not go far enough.



Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, cautiously welcomed Mrs May’s offer. “This is a good start,” she said. “But of course there are many, many other questions.”
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, echoed her call, saying there are still “thousands of questions to ask”.

Mrs May laid out her position at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels last night.

"No one will face a cliff edge," she said. "The UK's position represents a fair and serious offer, one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society.''

The cut-off date is due to be a matter of negotiation with European leaders, although is expected to be no earlier than March 2017, when the UK triggered the Article 50 process, and no later than the Brexit date of 31 March, 2019.

Those arriving after then will be given a two year “grace period”, after which they will be expected to obtain a work permit or return to their home countries.

The Prime Minister could be set for a clash on enforcement of the rules however, with Brussels pressing for the European Court of Justice to oversee any agreement, while Mrs May said the rules should be enforced through the “highly-respected UK courts”.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said the proposals had come “too little, too late”.

"Labour has been clear that people should not be bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations. The Prime Minister's offer is too little too late and falls far short of the full and unilateral guarantee Labour would make.”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron echoed Mr Starmer’s calls and said there remain “unanswered questions”.

"Theresa May could have given a guarantee from day one, instead she has allowed our friends, colleagues and neighbours to live in uncertainty for a year.”

Mrs May’s offer was further savaged by the 3Million movement, a group campaigning for EU citizen’s rights in the UK. 
Co-chair Nicholas Hatton said: “There is something slightly pathetic about the prime minister’s proposal which makes no reference to the detailed, comprehensive offer tabled by the EU. The Prime Minister described her proposal as fair and serious. It’s neither fair nor serious.”

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