British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that she wanted to end the anxiety of EU nationals fearful of their future after Brexit, promising to protect their rights and saying: ‘We want you to stay.’
But she was heckled by critics in the House of Commons, while opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said her plan was ‘too little, too late’.
The futures of 3.2 million EU citizens living in Britain were thrown into doubt by last year's referendum vote in Britain to leave the 28-member bloc.
Resolving the issue is a priority of the Brexit talks that began last week, but it also threatens to cause major rows between Britain and Brussels.
‘I know there's been some anxiety about what would happen to EU citizens at the point we leave the European Union,’ May said, prompting jeers from opposition lawmakers.
‘Today I want to put that anxiety to rest. I want to completely reassure people that under these plans no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU.’
May set out the principles of her plan to European leaders at a Brussels summit last week in what was intended as a goodwill gesture -- only to see them rejected as insufficient and vague.
In a 17-page policy document published Monday, she set out further details, including the rights envisaged for family dependents of EU citizens that fall short of what Brussels had called for.
She also confirmed that she would not accept the oversight of the European Court of Justice on citizens' rights, saying it would fall to British courts to enforce the new rules -- setting up another clash with the EU.
‘This is a fair and serious offer,’ May said, adding that it would provide ‘reassurance and certainty’.
But she repeated that the offer was conditional on a reciprocal deal for the estimated one million Britons living elsewhere in the EU.
Corbyn accused her of using European citizens as ‘bargaining chips’, adding: ‘This isn't a generous offer.’
‘This country needs a new approach to Brexit,’ he said.
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