When Theresa May makes you a “big generous offer”, you probably want to check the small print. That certainly applies to EU citizens resident in the UK – after all, she claimed repeatedly that the only thing stopping the UK from guaranteeing their rights was the failure of the EU27 to promise to do the same for Brits living elsewhere in the EU. But when, in April, the EU called her bluff and published its own offer – which does precisely that – it was met with a deafening silence from the UK side.
That silence was finally broken in Brussels on Thursday when the PM said the UK would offer a “settled status” for EU citizens living in the UK for five years, aiming to give access equivalent to UK citizens for health care, pensions, education and benefits. That sounds, on the face of it, as if it goes most, if not all, the way to matching the EU position.
However, the actual text of the UK proposal will only be published on Monday. And given that some of the issues are technically complex and politically charged – as well as likely to be an administrative nightmare – we will only know whether the UK’s offer is actually a generous one when we see the detail. Even today’s headlines talking about giving EU citizens “the same rights” as UK citizens need close examination: in fact the Prime Minister said only that the UK is “aiming to treat” EU citizens equally with UK citizens.
By Professor Jonathan Portes, Catherine Barnard and Steve Peers. You can read the rest of this article on The Independent