Saturday 22 July 2017

Backlash against May's proposals to safeguard rights of expats in UK

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the EU Summit in Brussels. Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the EU Summit in Brussels. Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Sarah Collins

British Prime Minister Theresa May's proposal to safeguard residency rights of European Union citizens living in the UK has been hit with a backlash.

Mrs May told EU leaders over dinner at a summit in Brussels on Thursday that almost all three million EU citizens in the UK will be able to continue living there after Brexit, saying she wanted to offer them as much certainty as possible about their futures.

But many expat groups in Britain criticised the proposals as being scant on detail and not promising the freedoms they currently enjoy.

For example, EU citizens living in the UK currently have more rights than British citizens when it comes to being joined by non-EU spouses and other family members.

Whether that remains the case could become a matter for negotiation. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "It's a first step, but this step is not sufficient."

Summit chair Donald Tusk said it was "below expectations" and "risks worsening the situation of citizens".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was also wary, saying it was a "positive gesture" but that the EU had to "see the details".

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"We don't know how exactly it's going to work," he said, "and it does only form one part of a negotiation process that involves many other issues."

London mayor Sadiq Khan said Mrs May's plan "doesn't go anywhere near" giving certainty to the 3.2 million EU citizens currently living in the UK.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has backed special treatment for the North in a Brexit deal.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney this week told the Irish Independent Northern Ireland should be granted a special deal to keep it linked in with the customs union, and that any type of Border would be seen as a failure.

Read More: DUP's talks with Tories 'a distraction for Stormont'

Sinn Féin is pushing for a "special status" that would keep the North in the EU, but Mr Varadkar insisted that was "not what we're talking about".

Issue

"What we're talking about in Government is a recognition of the fact that we have a unique issue and a unique difficulty with the Border, and that we will need special status, special arrangements, special measures - call it what you will - that recognise that and allow us to achieve our objective, which is that normal trade north and south should continue, that normal movement of people north and south should continue."

The issue came up during a meeting Mr Varadkar had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday morning and during Thursday night's summit of the 27 EU leaders.

Irish Independent

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