EU rights offer leaves us with unanswered questions

Theresa May today unveiled the details of her “generous” deal to EU citizens who reside in the UK, after revealing the new “EU settled status” at a summit in Brussels last week. The Prime Minister also confirmed that she is opposed to the European Court of Justice adjudicating on the rights of EU nationals after Brexit.

The UK government plans to give all EU nationals who have five years’ continuous residence the opportunity to apply for “settled status” under UK law. They will also receive an ID card and will be entered on a Home Office database. This raises some concerns of an increase in bureaucracy and potential discrimination due to singling out one particular section of our society.

Anyone without five years’ residence arriving before the cut-off date will be able to stay until they have five years’ residence and can apply for settled status. The cut-off date is still to be decided, but will be no earlier than 29 March 2017, when Article 50 was triggered, and no later than 29 March 2019 when Brexit is finalised. A grace period of two years will allow people to regularise their status.

But can a 15-page policy paper really give EU nationals that much more clarity about their future in the UK? We still have some unanswered questions:

1.       What happens to the offer if no deal is reached?

2.       Will this reflect the deal British citizens who reside in EU member states will get?

3.       Why do EU nationals who have already applied for permanent residency have to apply for EU settled status, when they are essentially the same?

4.       Have these proposals taken into account the impact on our public services? 

5.       Will the 5 year lawful UK residence definitely be enough for EU nationals to be eligible for the settled status or will caveats, such as having comprehensive health insurance for the duration, be added with time?

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP said: “Whilst we appreciate that leaving the European Union is a highly complex process, it is shameful that the UK government is using people’s rights as bargaining chips instead of working hard to deliver detailed plans that will benefit everyone. It’s staggering that after a whole year since the EU referendum took place, the government has only managed to come up with a 15-page policy document that still doesn’t manage to answer all of our questions.”

Paul Brannen MEP added: “Far from being a generous offer, these plans come too little, too late. We have already started to realise the impact that this uncertainty is having on our public services – specifically on the NHS which saw a fall of 96% in numbers of EU nurses coming to the UK after the Brexit vote. I’ve heard from outstanding EU professionals who had settled in the UK, but have now chosen to move to other member states where their families and their careers aren’t at risk. We’re losing valuable members of our workforce due to the Tory government’s inability to guarantee people’s rights.”

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