May offers rights to EU citizens
Enfeebled UK Prime Minister Theresa May has made a “fair and serious offer” to other European Union leaders on the future rights of EU citizens, offering those who arrived legally before Brexit the chance to acquire the same rights to work, health care and benefits as UK nationals.
May set out the UK’s opening offer to EU citizens: an issue both sides said they would like resolved early in the talks.
May said she was willing to agree a “cut-off point” between March 29, when May formally enacted Article 50, and the later date of March 2019, which is preferred by the European Commission.
May was speaking after a Mediterranean vegetable tart with grilled Chavignol goat’s cheese, followed by monkfish wrapped in lardo di Colonnata with stuffed courgette flower. Dessert was macerated cherries and almond milk ice cream.
In a move giving May leverage as talks begin, she refused to reveal the exact date after which new arrivals would no longer be guaranteed the status, leaving a group uncertain of their UK rights.
EU citizens arriving during the subsequent “grace period” would be given the opportunity to build up five years of residence.
The special category of “settled status” would give the same rights for life to work, pensions, NHS care and other public services as natives.
The offer is dependent on a reciprocal offer for the 1.5 million Britons living elsewhere in the EU. May said she did not want to see anyone already in the UK forced to leave or families split up.
May stressed there would be a streamlined administrative process to sort through people’s cases, using digital tools to register people in a “light touch” fashion.
“The UK’s position represents a fair and serious offer, and 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 crisis-ridden prime minister said.
But London is not reportedly prepared to agree to the EU’s demand to allow the European Court of Justice to be the guarantor of citizens’ rights. A government source said: “The commitment we will make will be enshrined in UK law, and enforceable through our highly respected courts.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Brexit was only of secondary importance to her, with the unity of the 27 remaining states paramount.
Non-UK EU residents can relax a little. Picture credit: Eurasia Times