Theresa May offers three million EU citizens the right to stay in UK after Brexit
It is not yet known when the cut-off date will be for eligibility to remain in the UK
Theresa May - Image credit: PA Images
Over three million EU nationals would be given the right to stay in the UK after Brexit under plans unveiled by Theresa May.
The Prime Minister said "settled status" would be offered to those who had been living in Britain for at least five years.
It is not yet known, however, when the cut-off date would be for who would be eligible.
EU citizens who have been in the UK for less than five years before the cut-off will have the chance to stay until they are eligible for settled status, May said.
In return, the Prime Minister said "reciprocal" arrangements should be offered to the 900,000 British citizens living on the continent.
She made the "fair and serious offer" at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels last night.
"No one will face a cliff edge," she said. "The UK's position represents a fair and serious offer, one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society.''
The cut-off date will be a matter of negotiation with European leaders, although is expected to be no earlier than March 2017, when the UK triggered the Article 50 process, and no later than the Brexit date of 31 March 2019.
Those arriving after then will be given a two year “grace period”, after which they will be expected to obtain a work permit or return to their home countries.
The Prime Minister could be set for a clash on enforcement of the rules however, with Brussels pressing for the European Court of Justice to oversee any agreement, while May said the rules should be enforced through the “highly respected UK courts”.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, cautiously welcomed Theresa May’s offer.
“This is a good start,” she said. “But of course there are many, many other questions.”
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said the proposals had come “too little, too late”.
"Labour has been clear that people should not be bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations.
“The Prime Minister's offer is too little too late and falls far short of the full and unilateral guarantee Labour would make.
“We believe there must be a clear commitment that there will be no change to the status of EU nationals in the UK.
“This is not only the right thing to do, but it will also help deliver a reciprocal agreement for the 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron echoed Starmer’s calls and said there remain “unanswered questions”.
"Theresa May could have given a guarantee from day one, instead she has allowed our friends, colleagues and neighbours to live in uncertainty for a year.
"Many EU nationals including those working in the NHS have already left because of this government's heartless approach.
"Even now, Theresa May continues to insist on using EU nationals in Britain as bargaining chips and has failed to provide a full and clear right to stay for all.
"If this government was really concerned about the rights of UK citizens in Europe, they wouldn't be pursuing an extreme form of Brexit that will make it harder to live abroad."
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