EU and British expats not impressed by discussions so far on citizen rights

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Posted by Geoff Bishop.

Discussions are under way as to the status of expats, both in the UK, and in European Union, after Brexit and the details revealed so far have been criticised as underwhelming.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has proposed that EU country expats who have lived in the UK for five years should maintain their rights to healthcare, education, welfare and pensions.

The Prime Minister told a European Council summit in Brussels that she wanted to offer ‘certainty’ to the estimated three million EU expats in the UK and ensure that families are not split up by Brexit.

But she made clear that the proposals would be adopted only if the same rights are granted to UK citizens living in the remaining EU states in a reciprocal settlement and also stated that she would not accept a Brussels demand that the European Court of Justice retaining powers to enforce rights after Brexit.

May outlined that there would be a specific cut-off date for EU expats to take up the offer if they had lived in the UK for five years up to that point and that those resident for a shorter period would have the chance to stay on until they have reached the five-year threshold.

She proposed a two-year grace period for those arriving after the cut-off date but before the date of Brexit to regularise their immigration status with a view to later seeking settled status.

But British expats hit out and said that the offer falls far short of more detailed proposals from the EU.

Sue Wilson, a Briton who lives in Spain and who chairs the Remain in Spain group, said one of the main concerns was the rejection by May of the European Court of Justice being the ultimate legal arbiter of all legal disputes including breaches of EU citizens’ rights.

 ‘Theresa May is acting as though she is making the first move, and we should all be impressed and grateful at her generosity. The offer already made by the EU was far more generous, for both EU and UK citizens living abroad,’ she pointed out.

British expats in France are also underwhelmed. ‘We find it bizarre that she expects the EU to reciprocate to her offer which falls short of their own. Does she expect the EU to water down its offer to match hers?’ said Dave Spokes, a spokesman for Expat Citizen Rights in EU.

‘This not a negotiation to get the lowest possible price. It is, or should be, a negotiation to gain the best support for real people. It seems a very odd strategy for the UK to offer less support for citizens than that being offered by the EU. Should they not be encouraging the EU to give more?’ he added.

European Council President Donald Tusk was also less than impressed and said that the British proposals would effectively reduce ‘the citizens’ rights’ of EU nationals living in the UK. ‘My first impression is that the UK offer is below our expectations and risks worsening the situation of citizens,’ he added.

More details of the offer are about to be published and Tusk said they will be analysed ‘line by line’
He added that the offer would be subjected to line-by-line analysis by the Brexit negotiation team after details are published in London on Monday.

According to sociologist Dr Michaela Benson of Goldsmiths College at the University of London, equal rights is the very bottom line. ‘At the very least, any terms which the UK seeks for its own citizens would have to be offered to EU citizens wishing to come or stay,’ she said.