May faces setback on Brexit law over EU citizens’ rights

Opposition parties could join with Conservative rebels to vote against the UK government. [UK Parliament/ Flickr]

Theresa May’s government is set to be defeated in the House of Lords over securing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Labour and Liberal Democrat opposition parties are joining forces with rebels among May’s Conservatives to support an amendment to protect Europeans residing in the UK.

In an effort to persuade the opposition not to vote against the government, Home Secretary Amber Rudd made a last minute plea yesterday (28 February), insisting that “there was no question of treating European citizens with “anything other than the utmost respect”.

Rudd said that their status would be the top priority once negotiations were underway but argued that the government could not act unilaterally over the issue because it would risk the status of British people living across the continent.

“They could end up facing two years of uncertainty if any urgency to resolve their status were removed by the UK making a one-sided guarantee,” she added.

Rudd added: “I’ve always been clear that after we leave the European Union we will have an immigration system that supports our economy and protects our public services, and that should mean securing the status of EU citizens already here, as well as establishing a new immigration system for new arrivals from the EU once we have left.

Britain voted to leave the European Union last year and Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, starting a two-year exit process.

British Prime Minister Theresa May wants to settle the question of the rights of EU citizens living in Britain as a priority in talks to leave the European Union, but has not set a timetable for her migration policies, her spokesman said on Monday (27 February).


The Brief: Right to stay must be first priority of Brexit talks

The status of EU citizens in Britain and British workers in the EU should be resolved as soon as possible.

“I think in terms of the issue of EU citizens’ rights in the UK, the prime minister has been clear on wanting that to be an issue that is addressed as a priority once the negotiations with the other member states get under way,” the spokesman told reporters.

May wants a reciprocal deal. She is opposed to making a unilateral declaration guaranteeing EU nationals future legal status as British residents until she receives assurances about UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU.

But EU countries, including Germany, have insisted that they would not negotiate anything linked to Brexit until Article 50 had been triggered.

Losing a vote in the House of Lords means the Brexit bill will have to enter a so-called ping pong between the Houses of Commons and Lords, delaying its passage into law by at least  by one week, experts say.

Kenny casts doubt over date for Article 50

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has cast doubt on expectations that UK Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50, the legal process to divorce from the EU, at the European Council summit on 9 March.

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