Osborne says PM insisted foreigners be used as bargaining chips
THERESA MAY blocked David Cameron from giving a unilateral guarantee that EU nationals could remain in Britain after last year’s Brexit referendum, her arch-enemy George Osborne claimed yesterday.
The entire Cabinet at the time agreed that EU citizens should be assured of their right to remain without insisting on similar guarantees for British expats living in other EU countries, according to an editorial in the London Evening Standard newspaper — which Mr Osborne edits.
But the then home secretary “insisted on blocking it,” the Standard said.
Mr Osborne was sacked as chancellor by Ms May as soon as she became Prime Minister.
The editorial continued: “A vote in the Commons earlier this year was only carried with a nod and a wink to Tory MPs behind the scenes that she didn’t really mean it.
“Since then, the government has lost its majority and it seems likely that an opposition motion to grant EU citizens the right to remain unilaterally could be carried.”
The claim comes after the PM set out her conditional offer on residency rights for EU citizens at a summit in Brussels. The offer is dependent on British expats in Europe being afforded the same rights.
Under the proposals which Ms May outlined on Thursday, settled status will be available to EU nationals who have been in Britain for five years, entitling them to healthcare, education, welfare benefits and pensions.
Those with a shorter period of residency will be able to stay on to reach the five-year threshold, and those arriving after a cut-off date that has yet to be confirmed will have a “grace period.”
Labour dismissed the offer to EU citizens as too little too late.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Labour has been clear that people should not be bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations.
“We believe there must be a clear commitment that the status of EU nationals will not change.
“This is not only the right thing to do, but it will also help deliver a reciprocal agreement for the 1.2 million British nationals living in the EU.”
In Brussels, Ms May’s proposal was not welcomed. EU Council president Donald Tusk said was “below expectations.
Deportations of non-EU citizens, including some who have lived in Britain for decades and have family here, have risen sharply since Ms May became PM.