24, June 2017
A first item in talks between Britain and the European Union on the so-called Brexit, Britain’s exit from the EU, has appeared to be very problematic as EU leaders slam London’s plan to ensure the rights of EU citizens after Britain leaves the bloc. European Council President Donald Tusk warned on Friday that offers by British Prime Minister Theresa May on how the EU and Britain should ensure the rights of each other’s citizens risked leaving the two sides on more disagreements in the ongoing Brexit talks.
“My first impression is that the UK’s offer is below our expectations, and that it risks worsening the situation of citizens … It will be for our negotiating team to analyze the offer line by line,” Tusk said during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels. Tusk and other EU leaders urged Britain to give more details on its proposal to guarantee the rights of the three million EU citizens who now live in Britain.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “there is a long road in front of” the EU and Britain and that the plan introduced by May was “not yet the breakthrough.” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said May’s initial proposals were “extremely vague,” which lacked the requirements to deal with the “incredibly complicated” issue of the rights of citizens.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker described May’s offer as a “first step” but said it was not “sufficient.” Many expected May to use her immense leverage on issues such as citizens’ right to make an immediate impact on a negotiation process, which could become very complicated on other thorny issues such as how much Britain should pay to quit the EU and how its access to the EU’s single market would be after the withdrawal.
May, however, described her proposals on citizens’ right as “fair and serious”, reiterating her previous conditions that the EU should guarantee equal respect in the post-Brexit scenario for about 1.5 million British citizens living in EU countries. She vowed that under her plan, the fate of EU citizens will be a priority, laying out a series of benchmarks, which she said could shield the citizens from excessive harm because of the political divorce between Britain and the EU.
“I want to reassure all those EU citizens who are in the UK, who’ve made their lives and homes in the UK, that no one will have to leave, we won’t be seeing families split apart. This is a fair and serious offer,” May said.
Under May’s plan, those EU citizens that have legal status of residence in the United Kingdom will have the chance to regularize their situation after Brexit. They should fill an 85-page form to declare if they want to stay in the country. Authorities have vowed that they would significantly reduce the paperwork needed for the process. More details of her plan would emerge on Monday in the British parliament.
Brexit narrowly won the vote of British voters in June last year. The breath-taking process, which is expected to drag on for two years, officially kicked off on Monday as top negotiators, Michel Barnier for the EU and David Davis for Britain, gave a “positive” start to the talks in Brussels.