The EU’s demands on citizens’ rights make a “bold and generous offer” difficult

The EU’s demands on citizens’ rights make a “bold and generous offer” difficult

EU citizens’ rights will be high on the agenda for the Brexit negotiations starting next week. Rumours have already been circulating about government preparations for a bold and generous offer. But this may not be as simple as it sounds.

The EU have already staked out their demands in the Commission’s Negotiating Directives. Four of them stand out:

  • That the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should have continuing jurisdiction in the UK over the rights of EU citizens, even after our departure. This could continue for up to a century with last minute arrivals and possibly their children and grandchildren.
  • That any citizen who has lived in the UK in the past should have these rights. Apart from being wrong in principle, this could involve at least six million people, rather than the three million currently here.
  • That the cut-off point for acquiring rights should be the date of our departure. This is dangerous as it could easily stimulate a last minute rush.
  • That EU citizens should continue to be able to bring in family members without having to meet the income requirements that apply to British citizens. This would confer on EU citizens a more extensive right than is available to British citizens and would, in principle, provide an open border for any future spouse of an EU citizens who had been granted residence here and, indeed, their children.

There may, of course, be an element of staking out an opening position. If so, the EU side will have to be firmly and politely reminded that there is no question of foreign citizens having more extensive rights than British citizens and, still less, that there should be continuing jurisdiction in Britain for the ECJ.

A “bold and generous offer” cannot possibly include such provisions.