Theresa May hits back at EU criticism on citizens’ rights

Theresa May has hit back at criticism of her Brexit offer on citizens’ rights, insisting that her proposals were “fair and serious” and intended to “reassure” the 3m EU nationals living in Britain.

Mrs May, speaking at the end of the EU summit in Brussels, also insisted that European citizens could rely on “highly respected” British courts to uphold the rights agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal.

In an attempt to reassure European leaders that the rights will be fully enforced in future years, Mrs May pointed out that if citizen’s rights were part of Britain’s withdrawal treaty “it would be enshrined in international law as well”.

A number of EU leaders remain unsatisfied with the British offer and are insisting that European citizens living in the UK should be able to uphold their rights in the European Court of Justice.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said talks on citizens rights’ were a “good beginning” but “not a big breakthrough”.

In a joint press conference with her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Ms Merkel said:

What became clear yesterday was that we have a very long way to go yet. We will prepare this very carefully with France.

If there is no guarantee for the four freedoms then [Brexit] will have to lead to a situation where it has certain effects [on how future EU UK set-up works].

We will have a political debate on this and we will need to find common solutions in tandem with France.

Prime minister May opposes any rule for the ECJ, but her comments on Friday suggest there could be an international legal backstop in the event of any future dispute on rights between the EU and Britain.

Speaking on the first anniversary of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, Mrs May was asked to guarantee that Brexit would be good for the country. “That’s exactly what we are working for,” she said.