UK PM Theresa May is in Brussels to meet with EU leaders Friday
British government's plans for EU nationals living in UK greeted with mixed reaction
British Prime Minister Theresa May has come under attack from a host of European leaders over her plans for EU nationals living in the UK after Brexit.
May, who revealed her proposals to leaders on Thursday, was forced to defend her stance as Europe’s politicians left the PM with little doubt of their disappointment.
Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, said the offer was “not sufficient,” while Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said it was “below our expectations.”
May told European leaders that none of the three million EU citizens currently living in Britain would have to leave in the wake of the country’s departure from the bloc, and dismissed the prospect that families could be split up.
According to the British government’s plans, a new “settled status” would allow EU nationals who have lived in the UK for five years to remain and enjoy access to healthcare, education and other benefits.
May added that those who had spent a shorter time in the UK would be permitted to remain until they reach the five-year point. Others who arrive after an as-yet-undisclosed cut-off date will benefit from a “grace period,” expected to last two years.
The proposal is dependent on British nationals living in EU states being offered a reciprocal deal.
Speaking at the end of the European Council Summit in Brussels on Friday, Tusk said he was unimpressed with May’s offer.
“My first impression is that the UK’s offer is below our expectations, and it risks worsening the situation of citizens,” Tusk said. “But it will be for our negotiating team to analyze the offer line-by-line once we receive it on paper.”
‘Cat in a bag’
May described the offer as “fair and serious,” but some of her colleagues took a different view.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there were “thousands of questions to ask” after listening to May’s presentation over a working dinner on Thursday evening.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel labeled it a “particularly vague proposal.”
“We don’t want a cat in the bag,” he said. “We want the rights of EU citizens to be permanently guaranteed,” he said.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern was guarded in his assessment of May’s plan.
“It is a first good step which we appreciate,” he said. “(But) many details are left open. A lot of European citizens are concerned and not covered by May’s proposal. There is a long, long way to go for negotiations.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, was also critical of May’s stance.
“May’s ‘generous offer’ does not fully guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK,” he wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully the UK position paper, expected on Monday, will deliver what we are looking for.”
The plan, unveiled on the eve of the first anniversary of Britain’s Brexit referendum, has also been heavily criticized in Britain.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan labeled the government’s stance “unacceptable.”
“It has taken a full year since the EU referendum for the Prime Minister to come up with a plan which does not come close to fully guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals living in the UK,” Khan said in a statement.
“Her proposal doesn’t go anywhere near giving the three million EU citizens living in Britain – one million of whom are Londoners – the certainty they need to make long-term