W2W - citizens' rights after we leave the EU

THE vexed question of citizens’ rights after we leave the EU is top of the Prime Minister’s priority list.

Mrs May first put her toe into the water eight months ago when she suggested a ‘reciprocity deal’ to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The move was in response to urgent pleas from all sides in Britain not to use EU migrants as bargaining chips.

It was a worthy attempt to end uncertainty for 1.2 million UK citizens in Europe and 3 million EU citizens in the UK.

The offer was rejected until Article 50 had been triggered and formal Brexit negotiations opened.

This week, as talks began, Mrs May made a perfectly reasonable offer to the EU, the aim to give as much certainty as possible to those who have settled here.

Despite reports to the contrary, the proposals are detailed and broadly aligned, with EU citizens treated the same as UK nationals, with full access to the NHS, benefits, pensions and education.

In Europe, British nationals would retain their UK pensions and free healthcare.

To avoid a last minute rush, the Government is likely to agree a cut-off date of March 2019, with two years’ grace.

However, from the UK’s perspective, there are two red lines, preventing EU citizens having “super-rights” over UK nationals.

The first is to re-establish the supremacy of British law, while the EU hopes their citizens can continue to be protected by the European Court of Justice.

That’s unacceptable to us, and rightly so.

Secondly, laws affecting family dependents should be applied evenly to both EU and UK nationals.

A ‘divorce’ on this scale was never going to be easy, but a consistent approach will see us through.