Theresa May has played her opening gambit of Brexit negotiations, telling European leaders she will offer some three million EU citizens a new “settled status” allowing them to stay in Britain if they have lived here five years.
Under pressure from all sides since losing her parliamentary majority, May held out an apparent olive branch on the uncertain fate of three million Europeans living in Britain.
Theresa May is laying out the post-Brexit “settled status” that will be offered to European Union nationals in the UK.
In slightly more domestic news, earlier Friday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called Britain’s proposals to protect EU nationals in the United Kingdom after Brexit “not sufficient”.
European Union chief Donald Tusk said the remaining 27 EU nations are ready to choose new locations for the Europe-wide agencies now headquartered in Britain.
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.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel found it “particularly vague” and described it using a Flemish expression for a dubious gift: “We don’t want a cat in the bag”, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel too insisted that a huge number of issues remained open, though she welcomed May’s first hint of a negotiating stand as “a good start”.
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło said May’s offer was “preliminary” and that she would assess after London gives details.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, reinforced that sentiment on Twitter, claiming the proposal “does not fully guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K”. “We agreed that the Commission will analyze investments from third countries in strategic sectors”, he said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker answered “no” when asked Friday if he had a clearer idea of what kind of exit the British government wants.
Tusk, who represents the other European Union 27 nations, said the European Union would “analyse line by line” the UK’s proposals when they were published in full on Monday.
“Citizens’ rights are the number one priority for the European Union 27 [all but Britain] and we have made our position clear”.
“Their disastrous plans to rip us out of the single market and customs union will cost as many as 80,000 jobs across Scotland – and for a key United Kingdom government minister to come out and say he isn’t certain of getting a deal that allows continued tariff-free access to the world’s biggest marketplace is as astonishing as it is concerning”. But he added that it would be be “for our negotiation team to analyse the offer line by line once we receive it on paper”.
When the Brexit campaign “happened to be successful, the ones who did it ran away because they said they can’t take responsibility”, Schauble said.
“We don’t want a wedge to be driven between us”.