Theresa May is preparing to make a major U-turn on EU citizens' rights ahead of Brexit

Christopher Furlong — WPA Pool / Getty ImagesBritish Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech to students and staff during her visit to Derby College on February 19, 2018 in Derby, England.
  • Theresa May is reportedly ready to give in to Brussels demands and grant permanent residency to EU migrants who arrive during a Brexit transition period.
  • Just three weeks ago, the prime minister insisted citizens who arrived after March next year would be treated differently to those arriving before.
  • The Home Affairs Committee has warned May that creating a two-tier immigration system for EU citizens was not “feasible” due to insufficient time and resources.

LONDON – Theresa May is reportedly ready to bow to Brussels pressure and offer permanent residency to EU migrants who arrive in the UK during the Brexit transition period.

The prime minister is prepared to make the swift U-turn in order to placate EU negotiators and ensure she seals a swift transition deal, although the move is likely to anger Brexiteer MPs, according to The Times.

Just three weeks ago, May announced EU citizens who arrive in Britain during the proposed transition period would receive different rights to those who arrived prior to Brexit day in March 2019.

She told reporters: “I’m clear there is a difference between those who came prior to us leaving and those who will come when they know the UK is leaving.”

But the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, insisted that the UK would only secure a transition deal if it accepted all EU rules until the end of the transition phase, including contested issues such as free movement rights.

“The United Kingdom must accept all the rules and the conditions right until the end of the transition, and must also accept the inescapable consequences of its decision to leave the European Union,” Barnier told a press conference earlier in February.

“If these disagreements persist, the transition is not a given,” he added.

A Cabinet source told the Times: “This is a big U-turn in the offing.”

A spokesman for the prime minister told Business Insider: “During the implementation period people from the EU will continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK but there will be a registration system to prepare for the new regime.

“In terms of people arriving after 2019, they arrive under a different set of circumstances than those who arrived before with different expectations and you can expect their rights to reflect that, so their rights will be different.”

On Wednesday, the UK government published its official response to the EU’s negotiating guidelines on the subject of transition.

In its response, which was leaked to Business Insider and other publications hours before publication, the government did not explicitly reject the EU’s demand that all migrants who arrive in Britain during transition must be given the same rights free movement rights as those who arrived beforehand.

The Home Affairs committee warned May last week that creating a two-tier immigration system in time for Brexit day is not “feasible” because the department is starved of time, staff and resources.

The transition arrangement – which is still being negotiated – was initially likely to last until the end of 2020, but the UK government called this week for the EU to discuss extending it indefinitely.

Brexiteers are likely to be angered by the move which allows EU citizens to arrive more freely.

Figures published on Thursday showed that migration from the EU fell sharply last year, with 90,000 arriving in the 12 months to September, down 75,000 from the previous year.

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