May proposes “UK settled status” for EU citizens

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A new “UK settled status” could give EU migrants who have lived in the UK for five years the right to stay, under “fair and serious” proposals made by Theresa May at the EU summit in Brussels.

Approximately 3.2 million EU citizens who live in the UK could benefit from the proposed immigration status, although it is contingent on a reciprocal arrangement granting Britons living in the EU the same rights.

Downing Street has not specified a cut-off date but it will be no earlier than March 2017, when the UK invoked Article 50, and no later than March 2019, when the UK is due to leave.

The Prime Minister gave a clear commitment that she did not want anyone to have to leave or for families to be split up.

“No one will face a cliff edge,” said May. “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.”

EU citizens in Britain for five years before the unspecified deadline would be treated in the same way as British citizens, receiving education, healthcare, pensions and other benefits.

German chancellor Angela Merkel described May’s proposal as a “good start” but European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was less impressed saying it was a “first step, but not sufficient”.

The EU has demanded that the European Court of Justice oversees the rights given to EU citizens post-Brexit, but May said: “The commitment that we make to EU citizens will be enshrined in UK law and will be enforced through our highly respected courts.”

The3million, which campaigns on behalf of EU citizens in Britain, said May’s announcement fell short of its expectations and was unacceptable in its current form. It said the proposal raised more questions than answers.

Nicolas Hatton, co-chair of the3million, said: “There is something slightly pathetic about the Prime Minister’s proposal, which makes no reference to the detailed, comprehensive offer tabled by the EU. The Prime Minister described her proposal as fair and serious. It’s neither fair nor serious.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We welcome the steps put forward by the Prime Minister, which would offer certainty to the 165,000 health and care staff who deliver vital services to communities in England…

“Although this news is a step in the right direction, we echo the concern of other industries if the cut-off date for entitlement to remain was set prior to the actual date of Brexit. This would disadvantage colleagues who have come to the UK in the last 12 months. We look forward to hearing more detail on this issue as soon as possible.”

Mortimer is co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition, a group of 35 health and social care organisations aiming to ensure the system continues to meet its staffing needs following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

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