May vows to protect rights of EU nationals as no deal Brexit looms

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Friday that the UK will unilaterally guarantee the right of EU nationals to stay in the UK after Brexit, if negotiations with the European Union fail. But papers published so far to help prepare for a no-deal scenario are yet to provide details on how this will happen.

May’s statement was made after the EU rejected large parts of the UK proposals for a future trade agreement at an informal EU summit in Salzburg, Austria. The controversy concerns the UK request to continue free trade of goods with the EU, without free movement of people. This is “unacceptable” for the EU, as it would create the dangerous precedent of a single market à la carte. The other problem is about the need to avoid a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a difficult puzzle to solve if the UK leaves the EU’s customs union and diverges from EU standards for goods.

In a statement following the summit, Theresa May acknowledged that negotiations are at an impasse. She added that, while talks continue, it is necessary to prepare for the event of a no deal.
“There are over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK who will be understandably worried about what the outcome of yesterday’s summit means for their future,” she said. “I want to be clear with you that even in the event of no deal your rights will be protected. You are our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues. We want you to stay.”

The commitment was confirmed at a meeting on Monday with the European parliament Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt.

The expectation is that the UK will uphold the decision to introduce the new ‘settled status’ for EU citizens living in the UK.

But unilateral guarantees are not enough to secure transnational rights, such as the aggregation of state pension contributions, the recognition of professional qualifications and access to healthcare when travelling across borders. the3million and British in Europe, two groups campaigning for citizens’ rights, called again on British and EU negotiators to ratify the agreement on citizens’ rights published in March, regardless of the outcome of Brexit talks.

Negotiations so far have been based on the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, meaning that the withdrawal agreement should include a solution Ireland, guarantees for the people who have moved across the Channel and the settlement of what is due to the EU budget.

In the past month the British government has been publishing a series of papers to help prepare for a no deal scenario. But plans on how to deal with citizens’ rights are yet to be unveiled.

British in Europe, the coalition of British residents in EU countries, also complained that the Prime Minister speech did not address their status.

In an open letter they wrote: “Whilst we welcome your softer words on protecting the rights of the 3 million EU nationals living in the UK this is nothing more than your moral obligation and the UK cannot do anything else other than to maintain all their current rights even in the event of a no deal. […] What we did not hear was one single word about the future of 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU27. You appear willing to take the UK out of the EU with a no deal and with no thought for your own nationals.”

On Monday the Prime Minister thanked Guy Verhofstadt “for his efforts to engage Member States on the rights of British nationals living in the EU.”

In a tweet, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the UK expects EU countries to guarantee to rights of UK citizens too.

Meanwhile, for all those affected the uncertainty continues.


Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
Photo via Pixabay.

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