May to resist EU residency plan during Brexit transition

PM Theresa May has suggested that EU citizens who arrive to the UK during the post-Brexit transition period would not have the same rights as those who arrived before 

prime minister Theresa May sparked a new clash with Brussels by suggesting that EU citizens who arrive to the UK during the post-Brexit transition period must not have the same rights as those who came before.

She has indicated she will fight a proposal to give residency rights to EU citizens during the transition period after Brexit.

She said there had to be a "difference" between those arriving after the UK leaves and those who came before.

Officials in Brussels has offered a “status quo” transition period to last from the day of the UK's departure on 29 March 2019 until December 2020, including free movement and citizens’ rights for those who settle in the UK during the period.

Rules for new EU migrants could include mandatory work permits, requirements to register on arrival and restrictions on access to benefits, which would not apply to EU citizens who moved to the UK before Brexit.

Speaking to reporters on a three-day trip to China, May said the details were “a matter for negotiation for the implementation period, but I’m clear there is a difference between those who came prior to us leaving and those who will come when they know the UK is leaving.”

In response to the fresh leak, a government spokesperson said the UK would forge new and ambitious trade deals but remain an "open and tolerant country" while ensuring there is control of migrants.

But reports that it could be extended have dismayed some Brexit-supporting MPs.

May said she wanted to resist the idea that not much would change after the UK exits the block, putting her at odds with her chancellor Philip Hammond who said the aim was for “very modest changes” post-Brexit.

“What we’re doing now is doing the job that the British people asked the government to do which is to deliver on Brexit,” she said. “In doing that they did not vote for nothing to change when we come out of the EU.”

Brussels intends to firmly rebuff any attempt to water down the “four freedoms”, including the free movement of people, during the transition period, sources said.

The EU believe they had agreed with the UK that citizens coming to the country before the end of the transition period would be covered on rights for EU nationals.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, told the Guardian: “Citizens’ rights during the transition is not negotiable. We will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing acquis with no exceptions.”

May’s comments also triggered anger among campaigners and MPs who raised fears about discrimination and uncertainty in light of the PM’s remarks.

Nicolas Hatton, the co-founder of the3million which represents European citizens living in Britain, argued that the UK was effectively staying inside the EU until the end of the transition period because it wanted to retain the benefits of membership until then.

“I think there would be utter chaos if there is a distinction between those arriving by March 2019 and those arriving in transition because there is no way to make a distinction between those groups, so it could lead to widespread discrimination of EU citizens,” he said, raising fears about access to jobs, ability to secure accommodation and having a functioning bank account.

Labour MP Peter Kyle said anything that caused uncertainty for EU workers in the UK was bad for business.

"EU citizens who come here to work and make an enormous contribution to our country, including in our public services and our NHS, should be welcomed and valued rather than turned away," he said.

All EU nationals who have been in the UK for more than five years will be expected to be granted settled status, giving them indefinite leave to remain with the same access to public services as now.

Those who have been resident for a shorter period but who arrived before Brexit will be able to stay until they reach the five-year threshold.

Brexit secretary David Davis told a committee of peers on Monday that the UK would robustly oppose the EU’s decision to apply all its laws and regulations to the UK until the end of 2020. “There will be an argument, I’m sure, about the issue of whether we can object to new laws that we haven’t had a say in,” he said.

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