Annus horribilis: Diary of an EU citizen in the UK (27)

So she waited for the first anniversary of that horrible day to come up with her ‘very fair and very serious’ (but no longer ‘generous’) offer.

Good on EC president Jean Claude Juncker to cut through the spin and quickly reply that the offer, previously announced as ‘generous’ but the adjective was lately dropped perhaps because it was pointed out to her how patronising it sounded, was neither ‘fair’ nor ‘serious’. Initial responses were mixed, partly because of the lack of details and the abundance of PR accompanying the announcement. Not surprisingly Italian media bought the spin and praised May for her generosity (see Corriere della Sera, the piece was successively amended to add Juncker’s rebut), without bothering with asking what the UK-based Italians thought about it.

So thank you to Juncker for pointing out that the offer is a starting point but insufficient and that the devil is in the detail: for example in the reference in May’s short statement to the lawfully residents. Who can object to this? Well, the point is to understand what does and doesn’t make an EU citizen in the UK lawful. Theresa May seems prepared to guarantee the rights only of those who have already sorted their position. But it is offering nothing to thousands of people who may have spent decades in the UK but due to prolonged periods abroad or not having the compulsory Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI)  are excluded from permanent residency. The CSI, of which very few had even heard before the referendum, has been until the referendum a dormant requirement for all EU citizens studying in the UK or residing here as self-sufficient persons. But now, without it, they cannot exercise their treaty rights and acquire permanent residency.

So Theresa May’s offer is neither fair nor serious. But she is certainly disingenuous. Leaving aside that apparently (according to George Osborne) she opposed unilateral guarantees to EU nationals when in David Cameron’s Cabinet, she is now making her ‘offer’ conditional to the EU guaranteeing the same level of rights to Britons in the EU. This is strange, about a month ago the EU had made an offer exactly in this direction, perhaps they posted to the wrong address? Or perhaps, what she means is that the EU offer was too generous and she would like the EU to lower their offer of rights to British nationals to match her no longer ‘generous’ one.

Does Theresa May still capture the zeitgeist of today’s Britain? Certainly some parts of it, If you need a reminder of the country we are living in, just look at the comments under a tweet by BBC Laura Kuenssberg on Juncker’s response, to give you the gist: ‘can’t we just tell them to F*** off’?

 

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