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Theresa May's Brexit plan for EU nationals branded 'not sufficient'

Posted June 23

British Prime Minister Theresa May's plans to secure the rights of EU nationals after Brexit have been criticized as "not sufficient," by the head of the European Commission.

Speaking to reporters the day after May presented her plans to fellow European leaders in Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker said while May's offer was the "first step," it was "not sufficient."

During a working dinner Thursday, May told EU leaders none of the three million EU citizens currently living in Britain would have to leave, 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.

She also 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 be two years.

The proposal is dependent on British nationals living in EU states being offered a reciprocal deal.

'Unacceptable'

But the plan, unveiled on the eve of the first anniversary of Britain's Brexit referendum, has been heavily criticized.

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 plans for themselves or their families."

"It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister to be treating EU citizens living here and contributing to our economy and society as bargaining chips. By doing so she is treating British people living in Europe, the same," he said.

He urged May to "abandon her extreme, Hard Brexit approach, guarantee the rights of EU nationals in our country and secure a deal that protects jobs, investment and prosperity across the county."

Friday marks a year since Britain voted to leave the European Union -- but negotiations over the terms of the departure only began last week, and much remains unclear as to the future relationship between the two.

How will it work?

May, whose position is weakened after her party's majority was wiped out in the general election earlier this month, made her presentation to the leaders of the other 27 EU nations on Thursday evening.

The Prime Minister told colleagues:

EU nationals who have lived in the UK for five years by the cut-off date will be able to gain "settled status."The new status will enable them to remain in the country and enjoy the same rights as British citizens in terms of access to healthcare, education, welfare and pensions.EU nationals who have lived in the UK for less than five years will be allowed to remain until they have reached the five-year point.Those who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date but before the country leaves the EU will be given a "grace period," expected to be two years.That "grace period" will allow EU nationals to clarify their immigration status and ensure they are able to seek settled status.While a cut-off date is yet to be set, Britain has already said it plans to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.

Further details are expected to be released on Monday when the Government publishes a paper on the subject -- it may offer some clarification as to whether those with settled status will be allowed to bring children or spouses into the country.

It may also address whether there will be any further conditions apart from the length of residency.

'Good start'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called May's offer a "good start" but warned there were still many other obstacles to overcome before Britain's departure from the EU.

"Theresa May made clear to us today that EU citizens that have been in Britain for five years will retain their full rights. That is a good start," Merkel told reporters Thursday.

"But there are still many many other questions linked to the exit, including on finances and the relationship with Ireland. So we have a lot to do until (the next EU summit in) October."

While there was a cautious welcome from Merkel, others were less forthcoming.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there were "thousands of questions to ask" after listening to May's presentation.

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 proposal.

"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."

Point of contention

One area which is bound to cause controversy is the EU's desire to see the European Court of Justice enforcing the rights of EU citizens within the UK.

That is a demand which May is unwilling to accept. She told fellow leaders: "The commitment that we make to EU citizens will be enshrined in UK law, and will be enforced through our highly respected courts."

Arriving for the second day of the summit, May said there are details of the arrangement which remain open to negotiation.

"This is a fair and serious offer," she said. "I want to give those EU citizens in the UK certainty about the future of their lives, but I also want to see that certainty given to UK citizens who are living in the EU."

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