Nick Gutteridge, Express, June 26, 2017
Ukip’s Brexit spokesman Gerard Batten described the proposal tabled by the prime minister as “pitiful” and pointed out it means the UK will not fully regain control of its borders until five years after the decision to leave.
Earlier today the Government published its detailed offer to EU negotiators on the thorny subject of citizens’ rights after Brexit which includes a vow to toughen up immigration rules in the future.
But eurosceptics were outraged by small print in the deal which advocates a “grace period” of up to two years after the date when Britain leaves the club during which EU nationals can still apply for permanent residency.
Ministers say that this measure is necessary to avoid a cliff-edge for EU migration and prevent a last minute surge of people coming to the UK in Spring 2019.
But that excuse did not wash with London MEP Mr Batten who said ordinary voters would not be able to understand why free movement is not set to end on the day Britain formally quits the club.
He told express.co.uk: “This is an outrageous betrayal of the will of the British people on one of the most important points of the referendum vote – to stop EU mass immigration.
“Finally gaining control over our borders in 2021, almost five years after the referendum result, is pitiful.”
“Our public services simply cannot cope with this added pressure, over 150,000 EU migrants a year come to the UK on current numbers.
“Immediate legislative action is required to enforce the will of the British people and to delay until 2021 is simply more Tory Brexit backsliding.”
The PM’s offer was attacked on all sides tonight as the Liberal Democrats, who have campaigned vigorously to overturn the referendum result, conversely criticised it for not being generous enough.
Brexit spokesman Tom Brake MP said: “Far from being ‘fair and serious’, this proposal offers very little and shows the government is continuing in its callousness.
“Theresa May should be utterly ashamed this is the best they can come up with, a year on. It offers little in the way of reassurance to EU citizens who have made Britain their home and continues to use them as bargaining chips.
“These people cannot just be labelled as EU nationals as if they are just a commodity to be traded. They are our friends, colleagues, family. They care for our children, elderly and sick. The government might want to play the politics of the dog-whistle but the Liberal Democrats won’t.
“These people play by the rules, pay taxes and make Britain what it is. Theresa May is treating these people like dirt and we should unilaterality guarantee these people’s right to stay.”
However, whilst the proposals received an extremely frosty reception domestically there is every chance they will be looked upon more favourably in Brussels.
Mrs May’s plans to make all EU nationals apply for ID cards, change their family reunification rights to be in line with British people’s and refusal to submit to the jurisdiction of the ECJ may cause some concern.
But many of the other suggestions the Government makes, especially on non-discrimination between UK and EU nationals and a generous offer on permanent residency, fit the bill in terms of what eurocrats were demanding.
The PM gave a presentation to the 27 EU leaders in Brussels last week which garnered a mixed reaction, with Council President Donald Tusk saying it fell “below our expectations” but Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar describing it as “welcome”.
EU officials have said they will study the proposals carefully and liase with the 27 member states and the EU parliament ahead of negotiations on the citizens’ rights issue, slated to start on July 17.