The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has told Britain to improve its offer for EU citizens – or face having it rejected.
Guy Verhofstadt says the UK’s proposal to give EU citizens a so-called settled status is “a damp squib”.
In a joint op-ed titled “Improve the Brexit offer to EU citizens, or we’ll veto the deal,” he and leaders of four of the parliament’s main groups said British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan offered EU expats in the UK fewer rights than Britons in the EU.
“If implemented, it would cast a dark cloud of vagueness and uncertainty over the lives of millions of Europeans,” it read.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s deputy, Damian Green, told BBC radio the government would preserve the basic rights of EU citizens in Britain, but reiterated that those rights could not be guarded by the European Court of Justice – a sticking point for the two sides.
Some 3 million EU citizens are expected to remain in the U.K. after Brexit. Under the government’s plans, those who have lived in Britain for five years will be granted the same rights as UK nationals – access to healthcare and other benefits, as well as the right to remain in the country.
But MEPs fear this new and special status will be clouded by uncertainty and red tape. They demand more protection and equal treatment.
“Europeans will not only lose their right to vote in local elections, but family members will be subject to minimum income requirements, and it is unclear what the status of “post-Brexit” babies would be,” their op-ed reads.
“This carries a real risk of creating second-class citizenship. The proposal is even in contradiction with the Vote Leave manifesto, which promised to treat EU citizens ‘no less favourably than they are at present’.”
The UK and the EU now have just over a year and a half to reach a deal on the terms of their divorce.
Verhofstadt said the European Parliament, which has the right to veto any Brexit deal, wanted the negotiations to be completed by March 30, 2019, and that any extension to this deadline would be “unthinkable” because European parliamentary elections were due to take place in May of that year.