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Theresa May’s offer to EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit has been dismissed by European Parliament figures.
The Prime Minister’s offer to give Europeans “settled status” after Britain leaves the EU falls “far short of what Europeans are entitled to”, it is claimed.
A letter jointly penned by European Parliament Brexit chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt and the leaders of four of the parliament’s main groups said that the proposal was a “damp squib”.
They argued it offered Europeans in the UK fewer rights than Britons in the EU, and would create red tape and uncertainty for millions of people.
Mrs May has said three million EU citizens would be allowed to stay in Britain, and those who have lived in the UK for five years would have access to education, health and other benefits. But the proposal is contingent on EU states guaranteeing Britons living abroad the same rights.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Verhofstadt said EU Citizens should keep their current rights, rather than the government “inventing new status”.
“It creates a type of second class citizenship for European Citizens in the UK,” he added. “We don’t see why their rights should be diminished and that would be the case in the proposal.
“In the end, it is the European Parliament that will say yes or no, and I can tell you it will not be a yes if the rights of European citizens – and also the rights of UK citizens living on the continent – will be diminished [and] cut off, like it is at the moment.”
In strongly worded comments, the leaders of the four political groups said Theresa May’s proposal contradicted promises made by the Leave campaign and threatened to reject any Brexit deal unless the rights of EU citizens were protected.
The letter said: “The European Parliament will reserve its right to reject any agreement that treats EU citizens, regardless of their nationality, less favourably than they are at present.
“This is a question of the basic fundamental rights and values that are at the heart of the European project.”
It added: “In early 2019, MEPs will have a final say on the Brexit deal.”
A UK government spokesman told the BBC: “We have always said we want a reciprocal arrangement that allows EU citizens to continue to live their lives in the UK broadly as they do now, which is why we set out our proposal to guarantee their rights with a new ‘settled status’.”
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