Brexit: What is UK offering EU citizens? – BBC News

Tom MarkLast Update : Friday 23 June 2017 - 1:40 PM
Brexit: What is UK offering EU citizens? – BBC News

Since the vote to leave the EU a year ago, millions of EU citizens living in the UK, and about a million UK expats in other EU states have been living in a state of uncertainty about their future.

On Thursday we were given a glimpse of the UK government’s offer to deal with the issue – but the full details have not yet been published. Here is what we know.

What has Theresa May offered?

Mrs May outlined her proposal at a private dinner with other EU leaders in Brussels which was not on camera.

So we do not have a great amount of detail – more information is due to be revealed in a government paper being published on Monday, although much will remain subject to negotiation.

What has been announced is that a new immigration “UK settled status” will be created for EU citizens who have been living legally in the UK for at least five years.

It is not yet clear exactly what rights those people would be entitled to but it is understood they would get education, health, benefits and pension rights for life.

It is understood no EU national currently resident in the UK would have to leave at the point of Brexit. Mrs May has said no-one would face a “cliff edge” and describes her plan as “a fair and serious offer, 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.”

A government source told the Daily Telegraph: “We will be aiming to treat them as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.”

Those who have not yet reached five years would be entitled to stay on until they reach the threshold for settled status while it is understood that those arriving after an as-yet-unspecified cut-off date would be given a “grace period” – expected to be two years – to obtain a work permit or return to their home countries.

But the offer is not unilateral – it is dependent on UK citizens living abroad getting a reciprocal deal from other EU states.

What don’t we know?

Quite a bit. For how long would this deal apply? There seems to be some dispute over the “cut-off” date. The UK has suggested it could be anywhere between March 2017, when it triggered Article 50, the formal process of leaving the EU, and March 2019 when it will formally leave.

Will rights under the new “settled” UK immigration status apply to family members living elsewhere – to children in particular? Mrs May has said she does not want to see families split up, but without the full detail it is not clear who would get the status.

Who will enforce the new rules? This seems to be a point of some dispute. The EU says the European Court of Justice should be involved, while the UK says British courts should uphold the deal.

That “aiming to” quote from an official has also raised questions. Anne-Laure Donskoy, founding member of The3million – which aims to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s nothing certain when you talk about ‘aiming’ to treat EU citizens the same.”

What has the EU said?

Before Mrs May’s offer, the EU proposed that EU citizens in the UK and the estimated 1.2 million Britons living in EU countries should continue enjoying the same rights, enforceable by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Mrs May’s offer as a “good start”. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said: “It’s a good first proposal which I appreciate but it’s clear that we have to invest much more work. There are a lot of other citizens who are not covered with Mrs May’s proposal and this will be part of the negotiations.”

But asked about the offer as he went into the second day of the summit on Friday, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “That’s a first step, but this step is not sufficient.”

Both the EU and UK have said they want to sort this issue out as an early priority.

Why is this all an issue?

There are thought to be about 3.2 million EU citizens who have moved to the UK to live, work and raise families – and about 1.2 million UK citizens who have left their home country to move to other EU states.

While the UK is a member of the EU, they are free to do so, and to enjoy almost the same benefits as citizens of their host country, under EU freedom-of-movement rules.

But the UK voted on 23 June 2016 to leave the EU, and Theresa May has said the UK will leave the single market – which would mean it was no longer subject to those rules.

Since then, it has not been clear what will happen to those people after Brexit, which is due to take place by March 2019.

Why has there been concern?

Immigration is believed to have been a key factor in the Brexit vote and the lack of clarity about what will happen to those EU citizens already living in the UK has led to fears among some that they could be deported or see their rights reduced.

The UK government has been under pressure to guarantee unilaterally the rights of those EU citizens who are already living in the UK. But it says it cannot do so until the rights of British expats living in other EU countries are guaranteed, as well.

This has led to accusations that the government is ready to use its EU citizens as “bargaining chips” in negotiations.

What are the current rules?

Under the current system, EU nationals can move to the UK under freedom of movement rules and can take up any job – employers do not need to apply for permission to take them on.

Non-EU citizens in the UK are subject to a work-permit system, which limits entry to the UK to skilled workers in professions where there are shortages.

EU nationals have a right to permanent residence, which is granted after they have lived in the UK, legally and continuously, for five years. For some, the requirement for “lawful” residence may include having personal medical insurance.

There has been some criticism that the permanent-residence system is “not fit for purpose” with applicants having to fill in a “complex and onerous” 85-page form, according to the cross-party Commons Exiting the EU Committee.

Theresa May has said that the new system she is offering would streamline the process for the millions of EU citizens already resident in the UK.

For UK citizens abroad, permanent residency rules vary across the other 27 EU states.

What do EU citizens say?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the lack of detail, many remain confused and worried.

The co-chairman of The3million group, Nicolas Hatton, said: “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.”

Source: world

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2017-06-23 2017-06-23
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