May trashes hopes of EU expats arriving during Brexit transition

May trashes hopes of EU expats arriving during Brexit transition

May trashes hopes of EU expats arriving during Brexit transition

British Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters during her Chinese trip she’s determined to deny rights to EU expats who arrive in the UK during the transition period.

May’s comments are certain to provoke a new row with Brussels as they follow the EU’s offer of a ‘status quo’ transition period of just under two years. The offer stipulated free movement and full rights for EU citizens arriving in the UK during the transition period. Potential new rules for EU citizen incomers post March 2019 could include registration on arrival and mandatory work permits as well as restrictions on access to health services and benefits available to EU expatriates who arrive before Brexit is finalised. Her stance may well result in disaster for all UK expats living and working in EU member states should EU negotiators decide to take the hard line in response.

Speaking to the press during her three-day stay in China, May made it clear she sees a distinction between already resident EU expatriates and those who arrive in the full knowledge the UK is about to quit its place in the EU. She added she is resisting the ‘little change’ scenario put forward by UK chancellor Philip Hammond as the best way forward for the UK. Quoting the ‘British people’ again, she insisted she will deliver on Brexit, saying Leave voters didn’t vote for the status quo.

EU Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt told Guardian reporters the issue of EU citizens’ rights during the transition period is simply non-negotiable as the bloc will not accept a two-tier situation for EU citizens. The success of the transition period, he said, is dependent on a continuation of the status quo without exception. May’s statement is all the more damaging to Britain’s post-Brexit prospects as EU negotiators had believed they’d agreed their citizens would be allowed full rights until March 2020.

MPs and campaigners are dismayed at her comments, fearing even more uncertainty and discrimination will be the result. Leader of the 3Million protest group Nicholas Hatton believes chaos is on the way and will include access to jobs, bank accounts and accommodation. Peter Kyle, a Labour MP and supporter of Open Britain, pointed out EU citizens make huge contributions to public services including the NHS and ‘should be welcomed rather than turned away’.

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