German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described United Kingdom plans to ensure the rights of European Union citizens in Britain after Brexit as “a good start.” However, she said there were “many, many other questions” about Brexit and there was “still a lot to do.”
The UK proposal was unveiled by Prime Minister Theresa May at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. The BBC reports that it would grant EU migrants who had lived in the UK for five years at the cut-off date new “UK settled status.” The cut-off date has yet to be announced, but will be sometime between March 2017 and the moment the UK actually leaves the EU. Those who qualify for settled status will be allowed to stay in the country and access health, education and other benefits.
The plan is expected to affect 3.2 million EU citizens now living in the UK, around a million of whom have lived in the country less than five years. Their rights – and the rights of UK citizens living in the rest of the EU – are among the thorny issues that have to be resolved early on in Brexit talks, along with the UK’s divorce bill and the Northern Ireland border.
The European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, described the offer as a “first step,” but added it was “not sufficient.” Mrs. Merkel was more positive, calling it a “good start.” “Theresa May made clear today that EU citizens who have been in Great Britain for five years can keep their full rights. That’s a good start,” she said at the end of Thursday’s talks.