UK citizen rights offer 'far short', EU's Brexit negotiator says
(ShareCast News) - Theresa May's offer to give European Union citizens a special status in the UK post-Brexit has been rebuffed by the bloc's chief negotiator.
Guy Verhofstadt and four other EU leaders wrote a letter for several European and UK newspapers on Monday, in which May's offer was described as a "damp squib" that falls well short of expectations.
May made the offer in the opening stages of Brexit negotiations, but EU leaders are not convinced that it goes far enough.
Migrants from the EU who have lived in Britain for more than five years would be able to live and work with access to public health, education and benefits.
Verhofstadt wrote: "It was a damp squib. The British government proposes that - the day after Brexit - Europeans obtain the status of 'third country nationals'. These nationals would get fewer rights in the UK than British citizens are offered throughout the EU."
The Belgian, leader of the Liberal and Democrat alliance in the European Parliament, added that any deal which reduced the rights of citizens on both sides would be swiftly rejected.
"It creates a type of second-class citizenship for European citizens in the UK," he said. "We don't see why their rights should be diminished and that would be the case in the proposal.
"In the end, it is the European Parliament that will say yes or no, and I can tell you it not will be a yes if the rights of European citizens - and also the rights of UK citizens living on the continent - will be diminished."
Negotiations between the UK and the EU have a deadline of March 2019, with citizens' rights one of the key issues to de decided for any exit deal.
Under May's plan, EU citizens in the UK who had lived in the UK for five years would gain access to health, education and other benefits.
The deal was dependent on the same rights being extended to Britons living across the EU, May said last month.
Those who arrive lawfully during an unspecified grace period would be given the chance to build five years of residency.
This grace period could start at any point up to the date of Britain's departure, according to the proposal which was unveiled exactly a year after Britons voted to end their 40-year relationship with the EU largely over concerns about migration. It also comes a fortnight after May humiliatingly lost her parliamentary majority in a snap election that has shattered her electoral credibility and left her premiership in tatters and hanging by a thread.
A potential flash point had already emerged over which legal jurisdiction the offer would fall under. The EU wants the European Court of Justice to guarantee citizens' rights, but the UK government has rejected this demand.
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker was quick to slap down the politically-weakened May, saying the proposal was a "first step, but not sufficient", while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said May's offer was "a good start".