Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain comments on Theresa May’s opening offer to the EU re Citizens’ Rights
Says Wilson: "Many adjectives have been used to describe Theresa May's opening offer, ranging from May's own 'generous' and 'fair and serious' to Jean-Claude Juncker's 'insufficient', Donald Tusk's 'below our expectations' and the 3million's 'pathetic'.
"I was tempted to add a few choice adjectives of my own. What annoyed me the most was May acting as though she was making the first move, that the onus was on the EU to reciprocate, and that we should all be impressed and grateful for her magnanimity."
On Saturday, the 'El Pais' newspaper in Spain quoted diplomatic sources saying that "May's government had talked to those most affected, including the 300,000 Brits in Spain" and that "they trust May's announcement has calmed things down".
Wilson responds: "It's unlikely that Brits who are seriously concerned about their future in the EU will have calmed down or been reassured by what we're hearing from the UK government. Although hopes were raised on hearing May speak about the offer in Parliament today, there was disappointment when we had the opportunity to review the document in full. For example, May told the House of Commons that the UK would continue to provide healthcare cover within the EU but the phrasing in the policy paper only stated that the UK would 'seek to protect the healthcare arrangements'. It's understandable that many are finding it difficult to take May's words at face value, or to feel that we are any closer to a resolution.
"The offer already on the table from the EU was far more generous, and would allow us to keep all our existing rights and freedoms. If May wants to be 'fair and serious', she should just agree, quickly, to everything the EU has already proposed. We are merely asking to maintain the status quo, with no degradation of our rights - it's not a matter of generosity but of justice. If she is proposing to limit rights and freedoms in any way, then we deserve to know which of those rights she is prepared to sacrifice."
Sue Wilson believes that three main issues are most likely to cause conflict between the two sides. The first is the jurisdiction of the ECJ, which the EU demand for the protection of EU citizens' rights in the UK and which May seems determined to resist following her promises of "taking back control". If the deal is part of the Article 50 withdrawal agreement, as an international agreement, it will need to be subject to some form of international jurisdiction.
The second is the effective cut-off date. May originally wanted this to be the Referendum date, then the date Article 50 was triggered, and is now suggesting it could be sometime between the start and end of the two-year negotiating period. The EU's position is that all EU citizens, whether EU citizens living in the UK or Brits living in Europe, are all members of the EU until the UK leaves, if indeed it does leave. The rights and freedoms associated with EU citizenship are effective while Britain remains in the EU and cannot be removed retrospectively.
The third likely area of conflict is the rights of family members or descendants where, again, the offer from the EU is far more generous than anything proposed by the UK government.
Following the publication of May's proposal in full today, Michel Barnier tweeted the following message: "EU goal on #citizensrights: same level of protection as in EU law. More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today's UK position." Guy Verhofstadt said: "...a number of limitations remain worrisome and will have to be carefully assessed."
Wilson believes we will hear more from the EU shortly, once the proposals have been studied in greater detail. She says: "It seems that the only stakeholders to be remotely impressed by May's offer today were in her own party."
Wilson concludes: "EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU have already spent a year worrying about what their futures will hold and suffering from anxiety, anger and depression. Even if an agreement was reached this year, and we're not holding our breath, it would not end the suffering and the feeling that our lives are no longer in our own hands. The EU position is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, so even if/when an agreement on citizens' rights is reached, we would still have no reassurance that it would be honoured. Not unless both sides agree to our demands for the deal to be ring-fenced, as insurance against the possibility of a "no deal". Only then would citizens on both sides of the Channel feel relief and reassurance. Our lives have been on hold for long enough."
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Notes for editors
For further information please contact
Sue Wilson, Chair
Tel: + 34 696 056 328
Deputy Press Officer
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