MEPs reject latest Government proposal on EU citizens’ rights

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Government concessions on the rights of European Union migrants coming to the UK in the months after Brexit have been rejected by MEPs.

The European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, led by former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, said it could not accept “any discrimination” against migrants who arrive during the implementation period after the formal date of the UK’s departure from the EU.

In an attempt to break the deadlock with Brussels, ministers unveiled plans on Wednesday that mean European migrants and their family members will be free to continue to come to Britain to work and study without any new constraints for up to two years after March 2019.

But the MEPs said they had concerns about “differentiation” between the rights of migrants who arrive before and after March 2019 and the lack of access to the European Court of Justice.

Under the latest plans, migrants who live in the UK for five years will have the opportunity to seek indefinite leave to remain.

But a key difference between the arrangements and those for EU citizens who are already living in Britain at the point of exit relates to the right to be joined by family members.

People who come after Brexit will be able to bring spouses, partners and children to the UK once the implementation period ends.

But these rights will be on a par with rules for British citizens, whereas EU nationals resident prior to departure can bring family members to the UK under EU law.

Under the current regime UK citizens who wish to be joined by non-European dependants have to earn at least £18,600 a year.

The Government’s document said the rights proposed for the implementation period will be enforceable in the UK legal system – rather than by the European Court of Justice.

Responding to the Government’s proposals, Mr Verhofstadt’s group said: ““We have taken note of the UK Government policy statement and the clarification it provides for EU citizens who will go to the UK during the Brexit transition period and will in principle have the right to settle permanently in the UK.

“However, we cannot accept any form of discrimination between EU citizens who arrive before or after the start of any transition.

“The full European Union acquis must apply during any transition, including for citizens, and no differentiation can take place.

“It can certainly not be the case that EU citizens arriving during any transition are forced to accept a lower standard of rights, in particular those relating to family reunion, child benefits and access to judicial redress via the European Court of Justice.”

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