Brexit: Juncker says UK rights offer ‘not sufficient’

Media captionMay: I want to give EU residents certainty

Efforts to reassure EU citizens in the UK about their future after Brexit are “a first step but not sufficient”, a top EU official has said.

Under plans announced by Theresa May, EU nationals living in the UK for five years would get “settled status”, with access to health and other benefits.

The PM said people deserved certainty but European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker said more was needed.

And campaigners said there were still “more questions than answers”.

Many Britons living in the EU are also worried about what it will mean for a reciprocal deal.

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The settled status would give EU citizens the right to stay after the UK’s exit – due on 30 March 2019 – and get the same rights to welfare, pensions and education as UK citizens. The PM also promised to streamline the system, including doing away with an 85-page permanent residency application form.

However, no cut-off date for the package has been specified by Downing Street and further details of the plans – which are reported to also involve a two-year “grace period” for people moving to the UK after Brexit to regularise their status – will not be released until Monday.

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Jean-Claude Juncker gave the proposals a guarded welcome

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that the offer was “a good start” but other European leaders have said more detail is required while Mr Juncker, who represents the EU’s executive arm, said it was a “first step but this step is not sufficient”.

Anne-Laure Donskoy, founding member of the 3million – which aims to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – said the offer was “disappointing” and “really falls short of our expectations”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “neither fair, nor really serious”.

“It is like a teaser this statement, it gives you general direction of travel potentially, but there are things in the statement that need to be unpicked.”

Questions remain

Chris Morris, BBC News, Brussels

Both sides would like to get the issue of citizens’ rights wrapped up as soon as possible – it would be good for morale to get an early win, and they have more difficult issues to tackle.

But while there is a sense that progress can be made, there are still some tricky technical questions to deal with.

Which rights will be extended to immediate family members living elsewhere – to children in particular? And who will guarantee citizens’ rights in the event of any legal dispute? The EU has already insisted that the European Court of Justice should be involved; the UK insists that British courts should uphold the deal.

It is also not clear what the cut-off date should be for citizens to qualify for any offer that is agreed. The UK proposal suggests a date between March 2017 and March 2019 – although it is highly unlikely that the EU would be willing to accept a date that has already passed.

From an EU perspective, what we’ve heard so far from the UK side remains rather vague. EU negotiators will want to see the details of this proposal which are only due to be made public next Monday.

Bulgarian Maria Spirova, who has been living and working in the UK for five-and-a-half years, said she was still concerned about what the scheme would mean for her future, despite the announcement.

“I am panicked on the inside,” she told BBC Breakfast. “I arrived here before 2014… but [the proposals] open more questions than they answer.

“It was the British public that voted to leave, we didn’t vote, and we have had no control over our future as part of this country. With Mrs May saying there could be no deal, what happens to us?”

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On the other side of the Channel, many British people are also concerned about what their futures hold.

Glynis Whiting, who is seeking to take Belgian citizenship, said she was “worried and angry”. “We didn’t get a vote and we feel betrayed and disappointed,” she told Today.

John Brown, who has been living in Belgium for 21 years, added. “It is when you get down to the nitty-gritty, you uncover all the real issues, and I don’t think any generous offers will get down to the real details.”

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Maria Spirova worries whether she will be able to stay living and working in the UK

But speaking at the start of the second day of the EU Summit, Mrs May said she wanted to reassure EU citizens in the UK that “no-one would have to leave”, adding: “We won’t be seeing families split apart.”

She said there had been a “constructive start” to the talks, and that the UK had “set out the issues that we want to start talking about early in the negotiations” – including citizens’ rights.

Labour’s Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, criticised Mrs May’s plans as “too little too late” and “falling far short” of the unilateral guarantee he says his party would offer. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also said the proposals left too many unanswered questions.

Both the UK and the rest of the EU say they want to come to an arrangement to secure the status of the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK and the estimated 1.2 million Britons living in EU countries.

The European Union has said they should continue enjoying the same rights on a lifetime basis, enforceable by the European Court of Justice, but the UK has said British courts should have the jurisdiction.

UK opposition parties had urged the government to make a unilateral guarantee to the EU migrants – but ministers have insisted a reciprocal deal is needed to ensure British expats are protected.


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