Has Theresa May committed the UK to keeping a key Vote Leave promise?
No, not the £350 million – we may be getting back full control over our own laws, but not the laws of arithmetic. I mean this one, signed by three current members of the Cabinet, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, and Michael Gove:
“There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.”
In fact, when the UK belatedly produced its counterproposals on the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens here, they were considerably less generous than the offer made by the EU27, and in particular they explicitly removed a number of important rights.
Perhaps most obviously, the UK proposes that EU citizens in the UK will no longer have the same rights to be joined by family members, but instead will be subject to the considerably more restrictive rules applied to UK nationals:
“Future family members of those EU citizens who arrived before the specified date – for example a future spouse – who come to the UK after we leave the EU, will be subject to the same rules that apply to non-EU nationals joining British citizens.”
Now, some might argue that this is “fair”, because it brings to an end a position where EU nationals in the UK (and indeed UK nationals elsewhere in the EU) have, in some respects, more rights than Britons here.
On the other hand, EU nationals who moved here exercising their free movement rights did so on the basis that they had these rights, which the UK signed up to in various EU Directives.
Moreover – and this is my view – if anyone is really worried about the “unfairness” to British citizens, then that unfairness could be ended tomorrow by the UK government, which could simply give us the same rights EU citizens have.
The fact that most of those who make this argument are unprepared to contemplate this solution carries more than a whiff of hypocrisy. Nor are these the only rights EU nationals will lose, as Dr Mike Ward explains.
Now, some commentators – in particular, Migration Watch and Daniel Hannan – continue to attempt to mislead the public about this: for example, Daniel Hannan recently claimed that “EU citizens will have all the same rights as now”, while Migration Watch argue that when they said that “EU citizens will keep their existing…