Brexit deal: 3 million EU citizens allowed to stay in UK permanently – and will get same rights as Britons
More than three million EU nationals living in the UK will be given the right to stay permanently after Brexit and treated like British citizens, Theresa May told European leaders last night.
The Prime Minister made a “fair and serious offer” to European leaders in Brussels as she pledged that all those who arrived in Britain before she triggered Article 50 in March will be entitled to stay.
Mrs May also said that she did not want to “break up families” in a clear indication that the spouses and children of EU nationals who live abroad will be eligible to join them in the UK.
However she said it is “vital” that any deal will have to be “reciprocal” and based on the European Union granting the one million British citizens who live in the Europe the same rights.
She also refused to meet EU demands that the “cut-off date”, after which EU citizens will no longer automatically be entitled to stay in the UK, should fall on the day that Britain leaves the European Union.
She instead said that it will be a matter for negotiation and could fall at any point between March 29 2017, the date that Article 50 was triggered, and the date that Britain leaves the European Union, which is expected to be in March 2019.
All those arriving after the “cut-off date” will be given a two year “grace period” after Britain Brexit and will be subsequently expected to obtain a work permit or return to their home countries.
If the cut-off date falls in 2019, as the EU demands, it effectively means that freedom of movement will continue until 2021.
Mrs May also set up a further clash with the European Union by rejecting demands that the European Court of Justice should continue to oversee the rights of EU migrants after Brexit.
She said: “The commitment that we make to EU citizens will be enshrined in EU law and enforced through our highly-respected courts”.
She told European leaders after a working dinner in Brussels: “The UK’s position represents a fair and serious offer, one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society.”
A senior official added: “We will be aiming to treat them [EU migrants] as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.”
Mrs May’s initial offer, which will be detailed in full in a position paper published on Monday, comes as she attempts to keep pro-European Conservative MPs onside in the wake of the Tories disastrous performance at the General Election.
She refused to meet Labour demands that Britain should agree “unilaterally” to protect the rights of EU migrants before securing a guarantee for Britons living in the EU.
Under the plans those who have already lived in the UK for five years will be granted “settled status” and allowed to live in Britain permanently.
Anyone arriving before the “cut-off date” will also be entitled to stay permanently, as long as they remain in Britain for at least five years.
The offer will even apply to those who arrive just a day before the date. However Mrs May has resisted demands to guarantee the rights of EU migrants until the day Britain leaves the European Union.
Ministers have raised concerns that doing so could lead to a “surge” in the number of EU migrants coming to the UK before Brexit. It will also give Mrs May significant leverage in negotiations.
The Prime Minister made clear that enshrining the rights of EU migrants living in the UK law will be a red line. A senior British official said: “We have been clear on the European Court of Justice that we are taking back control of our own laws.”
The Prime Minister also vowed to “streamline” applications to remain amid concerns that there are currently huge backlogs.
A senior official said: “The PM signalled that the administration of the system would be as streamlined as possible using digital tools to register people in a light touch way.”
There are several details about the offer which will be spelled out on Monday. Mrs May did not explicitly say whether the spouses of EU migrants will be allowed to join them in the UK. She also did not say whether EU citizens will be able to continue sending child benefit back home if their children do not live in the UK.