May's offer on citizens' rights includes Gibraltar
Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled details of her plan to protect the rights of EU nationals living in Britain yesterday, saying the government would work to offer them largely the same benefits as British citizens.
The Prime Minister sought to offer reassurance that, until Britain actually leaves, EU citizens would continue to be able to bring dependent family members to join them in the UK.
She also promised a "streamlined and light touch" system to enable EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for five years to apply for "settled status" giving them indefinite leave to remain.
The proposals extend to all of the UK including Gibraltar.
“The reciprocal agreement on citizens’ rights will apply to the entire United Kingdom, covering Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all parts of England, and Gibraltar,” the document states.
“Decisions that are currently made by the devolved administrations and the Government of Gibraltar will continue to be made by them.”
It defines a UK national in the same manner as has been used to date for EU purposes, which includes “British Dependent Territories citizens who acquire their citizenship from a connection with Gibraltar.”
During his budget address yesterday, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo confirmed that Gibraltar would respect the acquired rights of all EU nationals established or working here before the final cut-off date agreed between the UK and the EU.
The position in respect of EU nationals who come to Gibraltar after that date would depend on whether Spain and the EU sought to use Clause 24 to exclude Gibraltar from the benefits of any future UK/EU deal, he added.
“We will see how all that plays out but one thing is for sure, this Government of Gibraltar…will not allow Gibraltar to be discriminated against and yet extend generous rights to the nationals of those who are discriminating against us,” he said.
“For it should be clear that the people of Gibraltar are not going to be pressured to surrender sovereignty in exchange for EU rights or access to the Single Market or anything at all.”
Yesterday The European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned the proposals did not go far enough.
He said the EU remained to securing the same level of protection for its citizens as they currently enjoyed under EU law.
"More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today's UK position," he wrote on Twitter.
The European Parliament's lead Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt welcomed the commitment to simplify the arrangements for those who wished to remain in the EU but said concerns remained.
"A number of limitations remain worrisome and will have to be carefully assessed," he said.
Despite receiving a frosty response when she outlined the proposals at the Brussels summit on Friday, the Prime Minister insisted the reaction from some individual leaders had been "very positive".
Under the plan set out in a Government paper, EU nationals with five years continuous residence in the UK will be able to apply for "settled status".
Those who have been in the country for less than five years will be allowed to remain and then apply once they have accumulated the necessary five years.
"Under these plans, no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU," Mrs May told MPs in a Commons statement.
"No families will be split up.
"Family dependants who join a qualifying EU citizen here before the UK's exit will be able to apply for settled status after five years,"
The Government paper promises to make the application process a "streamlined and user-friendly as possible".
It is expected that those EU nationals granted "settled status" will be issued with documentation enabling them to access their rights although Downing Street played down suggestions it would mean issuing ID cards.
"I don't recognise the phrase 'ID cards'," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.
"We already have a system whereby if you wish to work in the UK you have a piece of paper which confirms your right to do so. That would not be new."
In her statement, the Prime Minister said EU nationals granted settled status would be treated "as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, benefits and pensions".
Downing Street confirmed that would mean those claiming child benefit in respect of children living overseas would still be able to do so.
Mrs May stressed the offer was made on the basis that it would be fully reciprocated by the remaining 27 member states.
"That agreement must be reciprocal because we must protect the rights of UK citizens living in EU member states too," she said.
However it was condemned as "too little, too late" by Jeremy Corbyn who said the Government should have seized the initiative by unilaterally guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals after last year's referendum vote to leave the EU.
"By making an offer only after the negotiations have begun, the Prime Minister has dragged the issue of EU citizens and families deep into the complex and delicate negotiations of our future trade relations with the European Union," he said.
"This isn't a generous offer.
"This is confirmation the Government is prepared to use people as bargaining chips."