Only the right to vote and the rights of serious and persistent criminals would differ from those of UK citizens after Brexit, says David Davis
Theresa May will offer to give Europeans living in the UK the same residency, employment, health, welfare and pensions rights as British citizens, but demand that serious and persistent criminals may be more easily deported than at present.
The prime ministers 15-page package, which will be published on Monday alongside a statement to parliament, will be designed to give people who arrived in Britain before an agreed cut off date settled status.
The Brexit secretary, David Davis, said the aim was to ensure people had rights almost equivalent to British citizens if the EU27 agreed to a reciprocal deal. They get the same residents rights, the same employment rights, the same health rights, the same welfare rights, the same pension rights and so on, he told the BBCs Andrew Marr. The only thing they dont get is the right to vote and they can get that if they become a citizen.
The date before which EU citizens would need to have arrived in Britain to qualify for the offer would be no earlier than 29 March, 2017, when article 50 was triggered, but could be at the end of the Brexit process, he added.
Asked if anyone would be deported, Davis replied: I dont think so, unless theyve committed a crime or some sort of security problem.
The Guardian understands that although it wont be a central demand, officials will make clear that they want to continue to consider deporting serious criminals, including as people are granted the new status. Under current rules, it is possible but is considered extremely difficult.
Davis also revealed that he hoped for the continuation of the European Health Insurance Card scheme that allows Europeans to receive treatment for free or at a reduced cost across the European Economic Area. Failure to stick with the current scheme would result in Britain providing one unilaterally anyway but thats what were looking to, he said.
The Cabinet minister said he believed that the question of citizen rights would be quickly resolved, with Britain willing to act unilaterally over the continued indexation of pensions as well. He made clear that any suggestion that Europeans who had already lived in Britain would be second class citizens was wrong.
But Davis admitted there was one big sticking point. The argument now is going to be more about whether the European court of justice (ECJ) has a say and thats where the fight comes in, thats where the argument comes in.
Arguing that the European Council had not mentioned the court in its negotiating guidelines, but the Commission did in its interpretation, Davis said Britain could accept some arbitration but not under the current system.
When were doing all these deals on trade and other areas, there will be arbitration arrangements. There wont be the ECJ, therell be a mutually agreed chairman and somebody nominated from both sides, is the normal way but there may be other ways too. And it may well be we have an arbitration arrangement over this but its not going to be the Court of Justice.
However, the EU27 could make the continuing role of the ECJ a red line in discussions, which could delay this early negotiation, which may need to be completed before Britain embarks on trade talks.