The European Union has torpedoed Theresa May’s proposals on the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, warning it would make their situation worse.
“The UK’s offer is below our expectations and risks worsening the situation for our citizens,” said Donald Tusk, the European Council’s President.
The critical verdict suggests the Prime Minister will have to go back to the drawing board in order to get talks going on future trade after Brexit.
Earlier this week, Britain caved in to the EU’s insistence that the fate of citizens in other EU countries must be settled before negotiations on its “future relationship” can begin.
But, speaking a few moments later, Ms May insisted her offer was “fair and serious” and would give EU citizens the certainty they needed.
Pointedly, Mr Tusk said the EU would be analysing Britain’s proposals “line by line”, when they are published in detail on Monday.
“We have made our position clear,” he said. “We want to ensure the full rights for EU and UK citizens after Brexit.”
Mr Tusk’s criticism comes after EU citizens in the UK protested that Ms May’s so-called “generous” offer – outlined last night – will leave them with fewer rights than firms trading across borders.
The Prime Minister told a Brussels summit that she was willing to give EU citizens in Britain a new “settled status”, allowing them to stay if they have lived here for five years.
People gaining it would secure rights on healthcare, education and benefits broadly similar to those enjoyed by EU citizens in the UK currently.
But Ms May refused to reveal the cut-off date after which new arrivals will no longer be guaranteed the status, leaving many people uncertain of their UK residency.
And, crucially, she has vowed to fight the EU’s demand that future rights must be guaranteed by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – a certain flashpoint over the months to come.
The 3million group, which represents EU citizens in the UK, described the offer as “neither fair or really serious”. “We really fear the loss of access to the ECJ,” said Anne-Laure Donskoy, a founding member.
Earlier, former Chancellor George Osborne said that Ms May single-handedly blocked a plan to immediately guarantee those future rights last summer.
The then-Home Secretary was the only member of the Cabinet to oppose David Cameron, who “wanted to reassure EU citizens they would be allowed to stay”.
“All his Cabinet agreed with that unilateral offer, except his Home Secretary, Mrs May, who insisted on blocking it,” revealed the London Evening Standard, now edited by Mr Osborne.
The proposal was discussed “in the days immediately after the referendum” exactly one year ago, said the newspaper.
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