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UK PM receives cool reaction to opening gambit on EU citizens' rights at Brexit talks

Theresa May and Donald Tusk shake hands ahead of the summit in Brussels.
Theresa May and Donald Tusk shake hands ahead of the summit in Brussels. / AFP
  • Theresa May gave her opening gambit in the Brexit negotiations over a working dinner in Brussels on Thursday evening

The British Prime Minister Theresa May received sceptical responses from German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and European Commission president, Jean Claude Juncker, to her announcement of plans to safeguard the futures of over three million European citizens living in the UK post Brexit.

Angela Merkel said that although the announcement was a “good start” there was “a lot more to do,” while Juncker said that the move was “not sufficient.”

Mrs May is proposing a “settled status” to EU citizens living in the UK, giving them the same rights as UK citizens in terms of healthcare, education and benefits, providing they have lived in the country for a period of five years. However, there is speculation around when exactly the cut-off date for the five-year threshold would be. European Union leaders, who are attending the summit, have urged Mrs May to make it the same day as ‘Brexit Day’ – the day that the UK officially leaves the EU, which is expected to be in March 2019.

Anyone arriving from other member states since the triggering of Article 50 in March this year, but before ‘Brexit Day,’ would be given a two-year “period of grace” to regulate their status under Theresa May’s plans. She said that this was a “fair a serious offer and one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens settled in the UK, building careers and lives.” However, she also made it clear that the offer only stands on the basis of reciprocal agreements being made for UK citizens living in other countries in the bloc.

The proposals have also received criticism from Remain Groups, with the New European asking “what will happen to EU citizens who will not have fulfilled the 5 year-criterion by the end of the two-year grace period?” and Citizens Groups of Britons in European countries have said that on the anniversary of the EU referendum, one year on people are still “in limbo” over their futures which will now depend on the reciprocal arrangements Mrs May referred to.

The summit continues throughout the day in Brussels, where leaders will be discussing procedures for the relocation of European agencies whose headquarters are currently in the UK. In London a ‘Stop Brexit’ rally is due to take place outside Downing Street this evening and in Spain pro-remain citizens’ groups are asking Brits living in Spain to mark the first anniversary of the referendum along with San Juan celebrations.