Brexit: European Parliament says Britain's new offer on EU citizens' rights is inadequate

European Parliament says EU citizens should be able to stay in the UK automatically after a declaration

Jon Stone
Wednesday 08 November 2017 16:50 GMT
The European Parliament will get a final veto on the deal struck between negotiators
The European Parliament will get a final veto on the deal struck between negotiators (Reuters)

The European Parliament has rejected Britain's brand-new offer on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.

The Government yesterday released a technical paper spelling out the details of a two-year grace period for EU nationals to apply for settled status once the UK leaves the bloc so that they can continue their lives in the UK.

The Parliament's cross-party Brexit steering group however today said there were still "major issues" to be resolved while Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt criticised the "inadequate" proposal.

David Davis: "We will look at" plans for Brits to keep EU citizenship after Brexit

The rebuttal comes less than 24 hours before the resumption of the next round of Brussels talks between David Davis and Michel Barniers' teams, in negotiations that will be key to Britain moving to trade talks before its new December deadline.

"EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU were told that nothing would change because of Brexit. The fact that the UK Government needs 25 paragraphs to explain how they lives will change proves this was a fabrication," the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt told The Independent.

"It's hard to believe this proposed new system will be smooth and efficient. The European Parliament remains deeply concerned about the lack of progress on citizens' rights issues. It is erroneous to say a deal is 'within touching distance'."

The UK said on Tuesday it would make the process of applying for settled status as seamless as possible, cost no more than an application for a UK passport, and that anyone rejected would be subject to an appeal. It also said the conditions for obtaining settled status would be enshrined in the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday the Parliament’s Brexit steering group, which draws on MEPs from around Europe and across party lines, however said that settled status had to be an “automatic process” without any conditionality such as the criminal background checks demanded by the UK.

The MEPs also said families should be able to make a single joint declaration, that the burden of proof should be on the UK authorities to challenge anyone’s right to remain, and that it should be cost-free.

Guy Verhofstadt speaking at the European Parliament
Guy Verhofstadt speaking at the European Parliament (European Parliament)

Additionally, this system should also only come into force after the transition period sought by Theresa May rather than immediately after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, the group said.

The European Parliament will have a veto on any final deal, which will be put to a vote on the floor of the house.

Some campaigners for EU citizens' rights, such as the 3million group, reject any proposal for "settled status" and say that EU citizens should retain permanent residence as now.

Yesterday Brexit Secretary David Davis said the UK “will support everyone wishing to stay to gain settled status through a new straightforward, streamlined system”.

He added: “The last negotiation round saw real progress in this area and I hope the document we have published today can facilitate the deal we need to guarantee the rights of UK citizens living in the EU27, and vice versa.”

A Government spokesperson said: "The UK has made a fair and serious offer on citizens' rights and we will continue working with the EU to finalise an agreement. At the latest round of negotiations, we made real progress on issues which will have a significant impact on people’s lives.

"Safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, is our first priority in the negotiations. We want to provide as much certainty as soon as possible to the many EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK and who make a huge contribution to our country."

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