Yours sincerely, Theresa May
On 19 October 2017, Theresa May published an open letter to EU citizens living in the UK reinforcing her message that citizens’ rights are her ‘first priority’.
She confirmed that ‘the focus over the weeks to come will be delivering an agreement that works for people here in the UK and people in the EU’ and that in doing so EU nationals would not be used as ‘bargaining chips’. She was unequivocal in her assurance that ‘EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay’. The letter came as the Prime Minster made her way to Brussels for the EU summit.
She announced that there will be a ‘streamlined digital process’ for those applying for settled status in the UK and that the cost will be ‘as low as possible’ and ‘no more than the cost of a UK passport’. Furthermore, the criteria applied will be ‘simple, transparent and strictly in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement’. Those who travel frequently might also be pleased to know that they will not ‘have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK and will no longer have to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance’ as they are currently obliged to under EU rules. For those who already hold Permanent Residency under the old scheme, there will be ‘a simple process put in place to swap their current status for UK settled status’.
The online registration process for settled status is expected to open at the end of 2018 and representatives of EU citizens in the UK and digital, technical and legal experts will be invited to sit on a new user group, which is intended to meet regularly to identify and resolve any issues with the new system and to ensure the process is transparent and meets users’ needs. The Prime Minister reassured those UK nationals living in the EU that they will work closely with member states to ensure their processes are equally streamlined and straightforward.
The Prime Minister believes that we are in ‘touching distance of agreement’ with ‘a small number of important points to finalise’ and is confident that a conclusion can be reached ‘in the coming weeks’. The agreement will not only provide clarity about residency but also ‘healthcare, pensions and other benefits’ and EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU will ‘benefit from what they’ve put in’. However, critics are quick to point out that the outstanding points have remained unresolved for some time now. Differences of opinion remain over the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over the rights of citizens living in Britain and the proposed new ‘settled status’ immigration category which some are concerned will lead to diminished rights.
Her letter is clearly intended to silence her critics and provide reassurance to those who, she acknowledged, are ‘anxious’ about what Brexit means for their futures. Whether she has succeeded in this aim remains debatable.
You can read the Prime Minister’s letter in full here.
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