Wrangling over future of Goans, EU citizens in UK
Plans outlined by Prime Minister Theresa May for the future of some 3 million EU citizens in the UK have been dismissed as “insufficient and vague”.world Updated: Jun 23, 2017 21:59 IST
Initial plans set out by Prime Minister Theresa May on the future of 3 million-odd EU citizens in the UK – including thousands of Goans with Portuguese passports – were dismissed on Friday as “insufficient and vague”, setting the stage for protracted talks in Brussels.
The future of European Union citizens is at the heart of the Brexit talks - EU leaders want Britain to guarantee their stay and rights in perpetuity, including for their current and future family members. These rights are to be overseen by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), not by courts in the UK.
May is unlikely to agree to continuing ECJ’s jurisdiction after Brexit, since taking back control of laws was one of the key objectives of leaving the EU. More details of May’s offer are to be revealed on Monday, but she has promised settled status to EU citizens and a grace period for new arrivals.
The settled status is intended for EU citizens who have lived in the UK for five years – a provision similar to that currently applicable to Indians and other non-EU citizens. No date or cut-off date has been mentioned so far for this five-year qualifying period.
EU leaders dismissed May’s initial offer, while Labour said it was “too little, too late”. Labour and Liberal Democrats want EU citizens to be given unconditional guarantees of continued stay in the UK, while May links it to the future of 1.2 million UK citizens in EU countries.
Campaign groups representing EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in EU also criticised May’s offer. Key issues include whether children of EU citizens in the UK living elsewhere in the Europe could continue to get the same financial benefits currently available.
Also, May’s offer is silent on bringing non-EU spouses of EU citizens to the UK, which they are currently able to do. UK not accepting ECJ’s jurisdiction on issues related to EU citizens in the UK after Brexit is also expected to figure high in the negotiations.
According to May, her offer was “fair and generous”, while campaigners said there were now “more questions than answers”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the offer was "a good start" but European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said it was a "first step but this step is not sufficient".
Since the expected date of Brexit is March 30, 2019, analysts rolled back the five-year qualifying period for EU citizens acquiring settled status to 2014, with EU citizens arriving until March 30, 2019 being able to build up the qualifying period beyond the Brexit date.
The issue is a matter of concern for thousands of people from the erstwhile Portuguese-ruled territory of Goa, Daman and Diu, who opted for Portuguese citizenship and moved to the UK. Their ability to move to the UK is likely to be revoked after the UK formally leaves the EU, expected in March 2019.