- Theresa May has written an open letter to EU citizens living in the UK in an attempt to reassure them about their post-Brexit status.
- The prime minister said: “EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.”
- The intervention comes ahead of the European Council meeting in Brussels, where they will vote on Brexit progress.
- Nicolas Hatton, the co-founder of the3million EU citizens’ rights groups says “we are barely out of the starting blocks” over an agreement.
LONDON — Theresa May has sent an email directly to 100,000 EU citizens’ living in the UK in an attempt to reassure them that they will be allowed to remain after Brexit, saying the government would not use them as “bargaining chips” in negotiations.
The prime minister has sent the open letter as Brexit negotiations have hit “deadlock.” She writes: “I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.”
In the letter, May promises that there will be “streamlined” and low-cost method for EU citizens to apply for “settled status” after Brexit and that the government will remove the requirement to “demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance.”
The intervention comes as the prime minister heads to Brussels for the European Council, which will decide whether “sufficient progress” has been made in Brexit talks on citizens’ rights, Ireland and the financial settlement in order to allow negotiations to move onto the next phase.
The timing of the message suggests that as well as an attempt to reassure EU citizens, the prime minister’s words are aimed at European leaders, who will vote on the progress of the negotiations.
May said: “I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority, and I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU,” and claimed that the EU and UK are “in touching distance of agreement.”
Nicolas Hatton, the co-founder of the3million pressure group disagreed that we are within “touching distance,” saying: “we are barely out of the starting blocks.”
Hatton said: “For the past year, we have been unsuccessfully tried to meet with David Davis and Theresa May. We have also made detailed objections to the proposed ‘settled status’ which have been read but seem to have been comprehensively ignored.”
The message was sent out to those who have signed up to Home Office updates and was also later posted on May’s Facebook page.
The prime minister announced she would be setting up a new “User Group” made up of EU citizens that will give them a say over the “settled status” process.
May wrote: “We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK. And I know that Member States value equally UK nationals living in their communities.
“I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.”
In a response to the message, Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said that it was a “sign of panic by the Tories,” in a Guardian column.
Abbott said: “Any reassurance to EU citizens is welcome and must of course apply to UK citizens in Europe, but these are rights that affect us all and millions of people will want reassurance that what is on offer is a genuine guarantee of full rights as they currently exist, including the right to a family life.
“The Tories have been intransigent on this. No half-measures will be acceptable and some joint court of appeal will be necessary. Without these, EU citizens here and UK citizens in Europe may well vote with their feet and we will all be worse off.”