Brexit: May ‘blocked unilateral offer for EU citizens’ rights’ last June – The Guardian
The paper, edited by former chancellor George Osborne, reports that David Cameron had prepared an offer to give EU citizens certainty in the days following the referendum result last June.
Cameron had already resigned and a leadership contest was under way in the Conservative party, but May and Osborne were still in post as chancellor and home secretary.
“Last June, in the days immediately after the referendum, David Cameron wanted to reassure EU citizens they would be allowed to stay,” the paper said. “All his cabinet agreed with that unilateral offer, except his home secretary, Mrs May, who insisted on blocking it.”
During the leadership election campaign, May’s rivals Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom both pledged that EU citizens would be guaranteed the right to remain, which was not echoed by May. She went on to win the leadership after her fellow frontrunner Leadsom quit the race following a damaging interview on May’s childlessness.
On Thursday, almost a year on from the referendum, May made what she described as a “fair and generous” offer to EU citizens at the European council summit.
The offer, which has been condemned as inadequate by EU leaders and residents, would give EU citizens already in the UK – and those who arrive lawfully during a subsequent “grace period” – the opportunity to build up five years’ worth of residence which would entitle them to “settled status” and the same rights as British citizens, which they will maintain for life.
Support groups for EU citizens in Britain have criticised the long delay and uncertainty faced by families and workers in the UK, who are unsure of their immigration status following Brexit.
The paper said May was unlikely to have the parliamentary numbers in the House of Commons to carry out her threat to withdraw the offer unless reciprocal arrangements were guaranteed for UK citizens.
“Once again, this morning, millions of families wake up among us not knowing whether they will be allowed to remain in the country where they have chosen to make their lives,” the paper said. “There has to be a very strong reason of national interest even to contemplate causing such upset. There isn’t.”
Osborne previously criticised the focus on lowering immigration at the expense of economic priorities in May’s approach to the Brexit negotiations. In the editorial, the paper called for a unilateral offer to Europeans living in the UK.
“It would be … an act of national self-interest dressed up as a gesture of international generosity. It would almost certainly force the hand of European governments to offer the same to Britons. Morally right, economically sound and diplomatically smart: such opportunities don’t come along very often in life, and we should grab them.”
The Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake, said the revelation was “a badge of shame” for the prime minister.
“Now that mean-spirited decision is coming back to haunt her as we see an exodus of skilled EU workers, from nurses to academics,” he said.
“We urgently need a new, streamlined process that gives all EU nationals who have made the UK their home an easy route to permanent residency.”