Theresa May reveals plan for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit

Leo Varakdar has said a good deal is more important than a timely one

Theresa May reveals plan for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit

Left to right: British Prime Minister Theresa May and President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Brussels | Image: © European Union

British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised European Union citizens living legally in the UK will be allowed to stay after Brexit.

She outlined what she called a "generous offer" to guarantee permanent "settled status" to three million EU nationals, speaking after an EU summit dinner in Brussels.

"The UK's position represents a fair and serious offer, one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society," she told the 27 remaining leaders of EU nations.

It would be dependent on the same rights being offered reciprocally to the one million UK citizens in other European countries, she said.

The plan, which will be published in full on Monday, guarantees permanent settled status for three million EU citizens already living in the UK, including rights to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was a "good start", but there were many issues still to be resolved.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre) talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat | Image: © European Union

The Taoiseach Leo Varakdar said a good Brexit deal for Ireland is more important than a timely one.

Asked about the timeline of Brexit negotiations, Mr Varadkar said: "I think what's much more important than the timetable is the outcome.

"I would much rather that we have a good deal for Ireland in time, than one that doesn't work for us in a shorter time period.

"And of course when it comes to issues relating to the border... it'll be difficult to determine the final shape of that until we know what the new trade arrangements are between the United Kingdom and the EU.

"But our objective is a very clear one, and it's a very simple one: that there should not be an economic border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland".

Cut-off date

The new legal arrangement would build on citizens' eligibility for permanent residence after five years.

Most people who have been in the UK for under five years will be given the chance to meet the five-year threshold for "settled status".

The deal also potentially offers it to some EU citizens yet to arrive, depending on the negotiation of a cut-off date with the EU.

The existing plan was to limit eligibility to those living there on the day Article 50 was triggered on March 29th.

The new plan offers the potential to change that date to the day when Britain is scheduled to leave the EU, in 2019.

Mrs May told EU leaders that no matter what was agreed on the cut-off date, there would be no "cliff edge" for any EU citizen lawfully resident in the UK on the actual day of Brexit.

Everyone would be given a two-year "grace period" to "regularise their status under new laws", she said.

The proposal is not, however, clear on the extent to which rights of EU citizens are also passed on to descendants or family members, as asked for in the EU negotiating document.

The European leaders did not engage in a negotiation with Mrs May over the issue at the dinner.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced ahead of the dinner that "it must be clear the European Council is not a forum for Brexit negotiations".

However it is thought any such arrangements between UK and EU citizens may not affect Irish people in Britain, as this is covered by the Common Travel Area.