UK seeks to regulate EU citizens status
PM Theresa May urges Europeans to stay despite Brexit
30 June, 2017
A week after the formal beginning of Brexit talks, British PM Theresa May presented her government's plans on one of the hottest issues of the talks – the EU citizens status once the UK leaves the EU. Announcing plans aimed at putting their “anxiety to rest”, May said she wants the EU citizens living in the UK to stay after Brexit.
According to the plans, all EU nationals lawfully residing in the UK for at least five years will be able to apply for “settled status” and be able to bring over spouses and children. Those who come after an as-yet-unagreed date will have two years to “regularise their status” but with no guarantees. A 15-page document outlining the details of the UK's offer to EU citizens was published as Theresa May briefed MPs on the outcome of last Friday's EU summit at which she first set out her plans.
According to the key points of the proposals, those granted settled status will be able to live, work, study and claim benefits just as they can now; the cut-off date for eligibility is undecided but will be between 29 March 2017 and 29 March 2019; family members of EU citizens living abroad will be able to return and apply for settled status; EU nationals in the UK for less than five years at the specified date will be able to continue living and working in the UK; once resident for five years, they can apply for settled status; a period of “blanket residence permission” may apply to give officials time to process applications to stay in the UK.
The PM told MPs that those granted settled status, equivalent to having indefinite leave to remain, would be “treated as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, benefits and pensions.” She pointed out that the process of application would be simplified and a “light touch” approach would be adopted. “Under these plans, no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU,” May said adding that any deal on their future legal status and rights must be reciprocal and also give certainty to the 1.2 million British expats living on the continent
However, EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the proposals did not go far enough. Reacting on Twitter, he said his goal was the same level of protection that citizens currently have under EU law. “More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today's UK position,” he added. Guy Verhofstadt, who is negotiating on behalf of the European Parliament, warned that any changes to free movement laws before the UK has left would break EU law. “A number of limitations remain worrisome and will have to be carefully assessed,” he pointed out.
May's proposals were also criticised by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said the offer was “not generous” and “too little, too late.” According to Labour, the UK should have made a unilateral guarantee of security to EU citizens in the aftermath of last year's Brexit vote. Corbyn also accused May of using EU citizens' rights as “bargaining chips”.
Despite May urging Europeans not to leave the UK, almost half of skilled professionals from other EU nations are considering leaving Britain in the next five years, according to a Deloitte consultants survey, published last Tuesday. About 36 % of non-British workers based in the UK are considering leaving the country, rising to 47% for “high-skilled EU workers,” the survey found.
The responses suggest that a post-Brexit Britain “could be faced with a potential skills shortage - high-skill workers are most mobile and therefore in the short term there is likely to be a greater pressure to fill these vacancies,” Deloitte said in a survey report. The report said Brexit has “shifted perceptions” of Britain as a place to work, with 21% of respondents based outside the country and 48% of foreign workers living there agreeing that Britain is now “less attractive”.