Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron not happy with Theresa May EU-UK residents deal

George Tzokas
By George Tzokas
June 23, 2017World News
Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron not happy with Theresa May EU-UK residents deal

The leaders of the European Union’s two heavyweight nations took a united, and somewhat dim view, of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s opening Brexit proposal during a joint press conference at the end of a Brussels summit on Friday, June 23.

May detailed the offer the night before at an EU leaders’ summit dinner in Brussels.

“The U.K.’s position represents a fair and serious offer, and one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the U.K., building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society,” May said.

The offer would give EU citizens that arrive in the U.K. lawfully before Brexit the chance to build up the same rights to health care, work, and benefits as U.K. citizens.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron standing beside her, said the offer fell short.

“That after five years of residence the people (EU citizens) in Britain will have the legal possibility of staying was a good start but also still not the breakthrough moment (that we need),” she said.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’ve made ourselves understood, we want to come to a good agreement, but I think it became clear yesterday evening that there is still a long way to go ahead of us,” said Merkel.

Merkel wants the U.K. to honour the EU’s four freedoms, the freedom of movement of goods, people, services, and capital over borders. “If there is no guarantee for the four freedoms then this exercise will have to lead to a situation where there are certain effects on the future relationship between the U.K. and the 27 member states.”

Without those freedoms guaranteed, Merkel said there will need to be debate and common solutions found with France.

Freedom of movement of people is particularly contentious throughout much of the EU and was perhaps the single largest motivator for Brexit voters.

Throughout their joint press conference, Merkel and Macron emphasized the need for unity between their two countries, with Macron backing Merkel’s stance on Brexit.

“I fully agree upon what was said about the British position. As to the method, I expect some close cooperation between our two countries and a joint approach regarding Brexit,” said Macron.

Merkel said the EU has other priorities at this time as well and doesn’t want Brexit negotiations to become an undue burden or distraction.

“We have said we want to pursue this matter in good cooperation, but what has come out yesterday was also that we still have a long way to go yet. And the 27 [other EU countries], especially Germany and France, will be well prepared. We will not allow ourselves to be divided,” she said.

One contentious issue is the EU demand that the rights of EU citizens be guaranteed by the European Court of Justice, meaning those citizens could have their rights to British services and work decided by the foreign court.

Speaking to the Guardian, a U.K. official suggested British courts were more than capable of ruling on these cases.

“The commitment we will make will be enshrined in U.K. law, and enforceable through our highly respected courts,” said the official.

Formal Brexit talks kicked off on June 19.


Matthew Little for NTD

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