Theresa May spoils for fight with EU over citizens’ rights

Migrants who enter after March 2019 know that the UK will be outside the EU, British Primer Minister says

BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 31:  British Prime Minister Theresa May looks on during a welcoming ceremony inside the Great Hall of the People on January 31, 2018 in Beijing, China. At the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang of the State Council of China, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May will pay an official visit to China from January 31st to February 2nd.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

British Prime Minister Theresa May has set herself up for a fresh clash with the European Union after she told journalists that EU nationals who enter Britain during the transition period beginning in March 2019 will not have full citizens' rights.

The Financial Times reported that she said those migrants who come to the UK after it has officially left the EU will be treated differently from those who were there before the cut-off date.

This week EU foreign ministers maintained the pressure on Mrs May by demanding that European nationals who arrive in the two years when Britain will be out of the bloc but keeping to its rules should have rights such as that to remain indefinitely in the country.

In a move designed to throw "red meat" to Eurosceptics in the Conservative party and convince themshe isn't going soft in negotiations with the bloc, she said that while those who migrated while Britain was an EU member state had "certain expectations" in relation to their rights, it would be different for post-March 2019 migrants.

“Now for those who come after March 2019, that will be different because they will be coming to a UK that they know will be outside the EU,” Mrs May said. “This is a matter for negotiation.”

With the prime minister coming under pressure from both wings of her party and with critics saying she is not up to the job of governing or securing a good exit from the EU, she appears to have chosen to tack to the Eurosceptic right by standing her ground on this issue.

The EU demanded last week that it not only wanted the continuation of free movement of people during a transition, but the extension of rights to all EU nationals who arrive after Brexit, the FT reported.

Under this demand, any EU national who goes to Britain before December 2020 would be allowed to stay in the UK and would also be able to claim certain benefits, including child benefits for offspring who lived outside of the country.

Mrs May also told reporters she believed Brexit would be good for Britain.

“I voted Remain [in the referendum] but I said the sky would not fall in if we left the EU. That has indeed proved to be the case.”