Theresa May sets out post-Brexit offer on EU citizens

26 Jun

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Theresa May has said she wants EU citizens living in the UK to stay after Brexit as she announced plans designed to put their “anxiety to rest”.

All EU nationals living in the UK lawfully for at least five years will be granted “settled status” and be able to bring over spouses and children.

Those who come after an as-yet-agreed cut-off point will be given two years to “regularise their status”.

Jeremy Corbyn said the offer was “not generous” and “too little, too late”.

Labour said the UK should have made a unilateral guarantee of security to EU citizens in the aftermath of last year’s Brexit vote.

A 15-page document outlining the detail of the UK’s offer to EU citizens has been published as Theresa May addresses MPs on the outcome of Friday’s EU summit – at which she first set out her plans.

She told the Commons that she wanted to give reassurance and certainty to the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK who she said were an “integral part of the economic and cultural fabric” of the UK.

But she said any deal on their future legal status and rights must be reciprocal and also give certainty to the 1.2 million British expats living on the continent after the UK leaves the EU – expected to be on 29 March 2019.

The key points of the UK’s proposals are:

  • Those granted settled status will be able to live, work, study and claim benefits just as they can now
  • The cut-off date for eligibility will be between 29 March 2017 and 29 March 2019
  • EU nationals in the UK for less than five years at the specified date will be able to continue living and working in the UK
  • They will be able to apply for temporary residency after a “grace period” – expected to be two years – has elapsed
  • Once here for five years, they can apply for settled status
  • Family members of EU citizens living abroad will be able to return and apply for settled status
  • A period of “blanket residence permission” may apply to give officials time to process applications to stay in the UK.

Under the plan, all those who have lived lawfully in the UK for at least five years would be able to stay and could expect roughly the same benefits, in terms of access to pensions, welfare and healthcare, as UK citizens.

Mrs May said the application process would be simplified and a “light touch” approach adopted. The existing application process for permanent residency process involves filling out a 85-page form and has been widely criticised.

Huge challenge

By BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

Officials anticipate that the process of administering “settled status” will be a huge challenge, with some 3.2 million potential applications.

Those EU nationals who’ve been assigned residency cards already will have to apply again under the new system, though the process for them is expected to be “streamlined”.

It’s thought applications for settled status will start to be processed from mid-2018.

Officials say they intend to put in place a new, online, simplified system – but say they are used to dealing with large volumes of applications – 2.5 million visas each year and seven million passports.

Criminal record checks will be carried out on those who apply for settled status, just as they are now for those who apply for residency cards.

Mrs May said spouses, children and other family members currently living outside the UK would be able to return and apply for settled status on the same basis as the dependents of British citizens and suggested there would be no income barriers for those who relatives have been here for more than five years.

She also insisted the UK should police the new rules rather than European Court of Justice.

EU leaders, who want their citizens to enjoy the same rights as now in perpetuity, have reacted cautiously to the UK’s plans, describing them as “below expectations” and suggesting there was a “long way to go”.

Campaign groups representing EU nationals in the UK also said they were disappointed and wanted a lot more detail.

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