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Theresa May to signal end of free movement for EU migrants when Article 50 is triggered

The rights of 3.6 million EU citizens already living in the UK will be protected, if British citizens abroad get the same guarantee.
Feb 27th 2017, 1:45 PM 25,628 102

UK PRIME MINISTER Theresa May is said to be poised to announce the end of free movement for new EU migrants when Article 50 triggers the Brexit negotiations next month.

She is expected to announce that EU citizens will no longer have the right to stay in the UK permanently at the same time that negotiations begin for Britain to leave the European Union.

The Telegraph reports that a cut-off date will be announced, where anyone from the EU who came to live and work in Britain before that date will have their rights protected as long as UK citizens living in Europe are granted the same assurances.

With no countries singled out, it is believed that this measure would apply to Ireland alongside all other EU member states, although this will be subject to negotiation during the Brexit talks.

Leading Eurosceptic MP Iain Duncan Smith said the expected announcement shows that Britain is taking back its borders, while giving clarity to the 3.6 million EU citizens already living in the country.

He said: “Theresa understands that if you want to take control you have to command the high ground. She will be giving clarity by setting a clear deadline while the European Union looks increasingly muddled and mean-spirited.”

Debate

Today, the Parliament’s House of Lords is set to scrutinise the bill allowing Britain to leave the EU, which made it through the House of Commons earlier this month.

Peers are set to discuss proposals including measures to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain, and defining the parameters of a parliamentary  vote on the final Brexit deal.

The so-called “committee stage” is the first opportunity for peers to make amendments, which would then get debated and voted on before being passed back to the House of Commons for approval.

If the Lords approves the bill without amendments it will be sent,  after its final reading on 7 March, directly to Queen Elizabeth II to sign into law.

However, if there are amendments, the bill could bounce between the two houses as they try to agree on its final wording, potentially derailing May’s timetable.

Dick Newby, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the upper house, said there was strong support among peers for protecting the rights of EU citizens.

There is “an overwhelming desire to do the right thing and ensure that all EU nationals have the right to remain,” he was quoted as saying by the Guardian on Sunday.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Conservative peer Michael Heseltine, a former deputy prime minister, vowed to support opposition moves to secure a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal within the bill.

May has urged the Lords to neither amend the bill nor delay it.

“There will be debate and scrutiny in the House of Lords, but I don’t want to see anybody holding up what the British people want… which is for us to deliver Brexit, to leave the European Union,” she said.

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Irish reaction

Speaking on RTÉ’s The News at One, Minister for State for European Affairs Dara Murphy said that one of the key issues to be addressed over the next few months will be the rights of British citizens in Europe, and vice versa.

He said that it was important that the tone for discussions between the EU and the UK remain “moderate” and that the fears of people affected by the end of free movement are addressed.

“The free movement of people around Europe has been an excellent contributory factor to economies and in enriching societies,” he said.

Minister Murphy said that it would be impossible to immediately suspend free movement as soon as Article 50 is triggered, despite what has been suggested by May’s administration.

“The legal position is very clear,” he said, adding that the rights of EU citizens are guaranteed until after the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations.

He later said that when free movement does end between the UK and the EU is “subject to the negotiations” around Brexit.

The Fine Gael TD for Cork North Central said that maintaining the common travel area was a key priority, and that the government here was focusing on ensuring this remained in place.

“There is a strong understanding [in the EU] that we have unique circumstances,” he added.

With reporting from AFP - © AFP, 2017

Read: Nigel Farage ‘squeezed in at last second’ to dine with Donald Trump

Read: What can Fine Gael learn from previous heaves against long-serving party leaders?

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Sean Murray

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