Donald Tusk says United Kingdom rights proposal 'below expectations'

Elias Hubbard
June 26, 2017

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, suggested they were "below our expectations" while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they were not a breakthrough and there was a "long way to go".

She would also offer any European Union citizen resident for five years - at some cut-off date - the opportunity to get settled status, which would treat them as British citizens for healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.

One year after the British people voting over exiting the EU, May pledged that no one will be compelled to leave the country because of BREXIT, offering permanent rights in healthcare, education, social-care and retirement for Europeans who arrived to the country before the withdrawal date.

It is understood those who have not yet reached five years would be entitled to stay on until they reach the threshold for settled status while those arriving after an as-yet-unspecified cut-off date would be given a "grace period" - expected to be two years - to get a work permit or return to their home countries.

Newer arrivals would be allowed to stay until they had amassed the necessary five years to qualify for settled status too. "It gives those 3 million citizens living in the United Kingdom certainty about the future of their lives, and we want the same certainty for the more than 1 million United Kingdom citizens who are living in the European Union". "There are some differences between that and the proposals of the European Commission but the matter will now go into the negotiations".

"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".

He said there would be a "fight" in Brexit negotiations over any role for the European Court of Justice in overseeing the rights of residents.

Extending sanctions against Russian Federation, commitment to Paris Climate Change Agreement and moving EU agencies based in London following Brexit were among the significant issues taken up by the Council, President Donald Tusk said in a joint news conference with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU term president Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat.

"There's nothing special in her offer", Spanish nurse Joan Pons, one of 60,000 Europeans working for the National Health Service (NHS) in England alone, said.

She also suggested that while rights would be enforced by British courts, they could also be enshrined in worldwide law if the agreement was included in the final treaty of withdrawal.

"What we also need is certainty, for our companies in Belgium, in Europe", he said.

Talks kicked off Monday, with the post-Brexit rights of European Union citizens living in Britain swiftly emerging as a prominent and contentious issue.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said "thousands of questions" remained on the key topic.

During Friday's press conference, however, Tusk was unimpressed by the British prime minister's offer.

But her proposal on Thursday was criticised for not being clear enough. Publicly, leaders said they looked forward to seeing the more technical details when Britain publishes a formal paper on the issue on Monday.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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