Brexit: EU leaders says United Kingdom offer could "worsen situation"

Elias Hubbard
June 26, 2017

British Prime Minister Theresa May said her offer to guarantee the rights of European Union citizens living in Britain after Brexit was "very fair and very serious", but her European Union peers were skeptical, with Belgium's leader saying it could contain a nasty "cat-in-the-bag" surprise.

Others would be allowed to stay until they reach the five-year threshold for "settled status".

But Davis said he expected the issue of European Union citizens' rights - seen as one of the easier parts of what will be a complicated Brexit negotiation - would be agreed "moderately quickly".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel too insisted that a huge number of issues remained open, though she welcomed May's first hint of a negotiating stand as "a good start".

"From our point of view these will be enshrined in United Kingdom law, they will be enforced by the highly respected United Kingdom courts, and of course if this is an aspect of the withdrawal treaty it will be enshrined in worldwide law as well", she said.

"If we compare the current level of citizens' rights to what we have had from the British prime minister, it's obvious that this is about reducing the citizens rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom, and our role (as European leaders) in the negotiations is to reduce this risk".

Her former colleague, finance minister-turned-newspaper editor George Osborne, embarrassed the prime minister when an editorial in his newspaper reported that May had thwarted attempts by her predecessor to give European Union citizens living in Britain unilateral guarantees.

"I think that's a very serious offer".

Now that the prime minister has announced her plans and short of a Commons majority she may struggle to win another vote on the same issue. But he added that it would be be "for our negotiation team to analyse the offer line by line once we receive it on paper".

In response to May's offer, European Council President Donald Tusk said the offer was vague and way below their expectations.

Many opponents of Brexit - the "Remainers" - would rejoice, though a reluctant and divided member of the EU could hinder European attempts at further integration.

Lawmakers say she will stay on for now, and May's aides were clear that the message she brought to Brussels was that she planned to lead Britain during the Brexit negotiations.

"We need to take care of our own future as an EU27", said Merkel, adding, "This work should take precedence over Brexit negotiations".

The two-day summit ended with battlelines being drawn over the key questions of jurisdiction and the cut-off date for residency rights.

Prime Minister Theresa May's proposal to safeguard residency rights of European Union citizens now living in Britain met with a tepid reception both in Europe and at home, with her EU counterparts and London Mayor Sadiq Khan stressing that many issues remain unresolved.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose country holds the current presidency of the European Council, was asked about his impressions of May's offer.

He said: 'I'm sure there will be a deal, whether it's the deal I want, which is a free trade agreement, the customs agreement, and so on, I'm pretty sure, but I'm not certain'.

"Everyone in Europe wants a situation where we have a blanket fair treatment of all our citizens".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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