EU expats condemn Theresa May's 'pathetic' offer on Brexit rights

Groups representing EU citizens in UK and Britons abroad unimpressed by prime minister’s Brussels proposal

Theresa May shakes hands with Donald Tusk at the EU summit in Brussels. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Representatives of EU citizens in Britain have branded Theresa May’s offer to guarantee their rights to remain in the country after Brexit pathetic and anything but “fair and serious”.
A group representing Britons in Europe as well as EU citizens in the UK will meet officials in the Department for Exiting the European Union on Friday morning to tell them of their anger with the prime minister’s “spin” on the issue when she spoke at a dinner in Brussels.

May made what she described as a “fair and generous” offer after a meal at the European council summit on Thursday.

But it was met with fury by EU citizens who say it increases rather than eases anxiety, particularly because, they claim, it is cast in the “language of immigration law” rather than existing EU law.
They say the offer is also damaging for Britons in Europe to whom, a fortnight ago, the EU offered a lifetime guarantee of all their current rights, something that the British team in Brussels failed to acknowledge on Thursday night, instead talking of how the UK’s offer was only on the table if it was reciprocated by the EU.

“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,” said Nicolas Hatton, the founder of the grassroots group the3million, which has been campaigning for the rights of those settled in the UK since the referendum last year.

Sue Wilson, a Briton who lives in Spain and who chairs the Bremain in Spain group, said one of the main concerns was that the UK’s offer did not accept a role for the European court of justice, the ultimate legal arbiter of all legal disputes relating to the EU, including breaches of EU citizens’ rights across Europe.

It will remain the arbiter until Britain leaves the EU, but Downing Street does not accept it has a role in legacy issues after Brexit.

“Theresa May is acting as though she is making the first move, and we should all be impressed and grateful at her generosity. The offer already made by the EU was far more generous, for both EU and UK citizens living abroad,” said Wilson.

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“While we agree with Angela Merkel that this is a reasonable first step, May is going to have to compromise. She is not in the driving seat, and we are sick and tired of being used as bargaining chips.”

Britons in France also expressed their fears on Friday that May’s opening move could damage their position in Europe.

“We find it bizarre that she expects the EU to reciprocate to her offer which falls short of their own. Does she expect the EU to water down its offer to match hers?” said Dave Spokes, a spokesman for the group Expat Citizen Rights in EU.


Spokes added: “This is not a negotiation to get the lowest possible price. It is, or should be, a negotiation to gain the best support for real people – a country’s citizens.

“We are not surprised that Mr Juncker has described Theresa May’s offer on citizens rights as ‘not sufficient’.

“This reflects our own assessment. It seems a very odd strategy for the UK to offer less support for citizens than that being offered by the EU. Should they not be encouraging the EU to give more?”

There was also concern that the British offer referred to “building up rights” and deals for those living in the country for five years, whereas under EU law citizens start to acquire those rights after just three months in another EU country.

“We are all EU citizens with associated rights acquired through EU membership - these rights cannot be removed retrospectively,” Wilson said.

The EU’s offer was handed to May on 12 June after consultation with groups representing Britons in about a dozen countries. But it got little attention and was not publicised by Westminster, which was reeling from the surprise election result and then the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Jane Golding, a British lawyer living in Berlin, who was involved in the consultations with the EU, said EU citizens were not being treated the same as the British in Europe.

“At this stage, I think [the British offer] raises more questions than it answers. There are some broad lines of the offer set out, but whether the status quo and the full bundle of rights that EU citizens in the UK currently have will be safeguarded is not clear from this statement.

“So without answers to those questions, we simply don’t know yet whether the PM is offering certainty to EU citizens,” she said.

One of the main concerns of the3million is that the offer “fails to mention the indivisible rights that EU citizens currently enjoy” that no country can remove, including the right to live, work, own a business and bring family into the UK.

Nor does it mention the fact that EU freedom of movement rights start to be acquired after three months.

This in effect means a cut-off date of 29 December 2018, three months before the scheduled departure from the EU, allowing Britons and other EU citizens to continue to migrate within Europe until then without having their future rights threatened.

May’s offer refers to an undated cut-off point falling anywhere between the day article 50 was invoked, 29 March 2017, and Brexit Day, 29 March 2019.
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In a statement it said: “The3million finds this proposal unacceptable and calls on the government to revisit its approach and start constructive talks with the EU, based on the balanced proposal published by the EU in its negotiating directives.”

Last night Hatton revealed that David Davis, the Brexit secretary, had refused to meet representatives of EU citizens. He described the decision as “insulting” since they had previously had talks with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier.

He described the prime minister’s offer as “the lowest possible” position to enter talks. “It’s disgusting. They do not want to engage with EU citizens. It’s like one big game to them, but these are people’s lives,” Hatton said.

“Barnier and the EU, they also play political games and like good PR, but they have listened to us and redrafted their proposal after they sent it round to the EU27 because of the feedback they got. The UK seems to be stuck in this Home Office policy of creating a hostile environment.”
Source - theguardian

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