Theresa May has written to EU citizens. Well, I say written to EU citizens. It’s worth delving into the letter, so you can see precisely the way this government thinks.

As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the European Union – to demonstrate we are putting people first.

As she travels to Brussels today, it’s worth noting she sent this letter to the press first, to get decent PR at home, only later sending it to the people it’s addressed to. As for putting people first, she’s right there if she means Brexiters and/or her government. Not so much EU citizens, whose rights she could have unilaterally guaranteed last year.

I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority.

As many commentators have noted, the use of ‘clear’ usually means the opposite.

And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.

In the UK’s case, by removing existing rights, and also by refusing to guarantee even the right to reside in the event the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

I want to give reassurance that this issue remains a priority, that we are united on the key principles, and that the focus over the weeks to come will be delivering an agreement that works for people here in the UK, and people in the EU.

Reassurance means nothing. These are empty words. EU citizens have been living in limbo since the referendum. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate: many thousands have already decided to the leave the UK, taking their skills, taxes and families (often including British nationals) with them.

When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips.

Apart from Liam Fox. Although May is technically accurate here, because he referred to them as cards in a poker hand rather than bargaining chips. Much better!

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Oops. Actually, almost everything is further from the truth. See above.

EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country.

Which May, her cronies, and the British press continue on a daily basis to erode in people’s minds, by positioning EU citizens as simultaneously taking all the jobs that ‘should’ go to British people, and taking all the benefits they can possibly carry in their gnarled and evil EU citizen claws.

And we want them and their families to stay.

Except her government is continuing to push against family reunion rights, and is looking towards ‘equalising’ how migration works regarding the abhorrent income barrier (if you don’t earn over £18,600, bye); also, Amber Rudd helpfully noted that “maybe” those EU citizens who are unemployed won’t be able to stay. So the inference is even the unemployed spouse of an employed person here (British, EU or other) won’t necessarily be able to remain in the UK – despite May saying she wants them to.

The language is important here – as with a lot of Brexit guff, it’s about aspiration, rather than actions.

I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.


But this agreement will not only provide certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals into the system of an EU27 country – can benefit from what they’ve put in. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the EU and UK to stay together. And it will provide guarantees that the rights of those UK nationals currently living in the EU, and EU citizens currently living in the UK will not diverge over time.

An entire paragraph of not awful. Hurrah! Although this all depends on the caveats already mentioned – and those I suspect are about to come. (I’m reading this for the first time now, by the way. Here’s hoping for exciting shock twists and a happy ending. I’m going to be disappointed, aren’t I?)

What that leaves us with is a small number of important points to finalise. That is to be expected at this point in negotiations. We are in touching distance of agreement. I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals for finalising the agreement with an open mind.

Probably accurate, if you mean “will approach the proposals with venom, and throw up roadblocks much like a cat spewing hairballs all over the carpet”. (The EU’s not perfect here either, note. The one actually quite smart thing the UK’s suggested – dropping a two-year maximum absence from the UK to retain settled status, for Brits in the EU to retain free movement within the EU – was spurned.)

And with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.

Meaning: do what we want, or we will have the press say failure is entirely your fault for being inflexible in not bending to our every whim.

I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented.

But don’t care.

People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome.

Probably because existing processes are unnecessarily complicated and bureaucratic, and put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome.

I want to provide reassurance here too.

Here we go.

We are developing a streamlined digital process

Because those never go wrong in the UK.

for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind,

As opposed to, say, people who aren’t using it.

and we will engage with them every step of the way.


We will keep the cost as low as possible – no more than the cost of a UK passport.

An actually good thing. Although I’m hoping this means people applying from scratch; otherwise, it goes against an earlier suggestion that moving from PR to settled status wouldn’t cost anything.

The criteria applied will be simple, transparent and strictly in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement. People applying will not have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK and will no longer have to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as they currently have to under EU rules.

There’s disagreement about CSI, but legal experts on Twitter have told me that either the UK could drop CSI as a block to PR right now, or at least remove the existing requirement. The EU’s long contended anyone with access to the NHS qualifies for CSI. But the UK Home Office disagrees, which means many EU citizens seeking PR (required for citizenship) do not qualify unless they have comprehensive sickness insurance.

The snag: almost no-one knew about this, and the Home Office helpfully doesn’t explain the specifics of what qualifies for CSI. So it’s a lottery of sorts, and an intentional block, to stop people who haven’t been working for the past five years from being able to stay.

The British government could change this right now, but chooses not to. Bear that in mind when you hear May and co. banging on about wanting people to stay. Again, the inference is “we want people to stay who make us money”. Anyone else is considered collateral damage. This kind of thinking isn’t smart, though, because that damage is poor for society as a whole, affecting social webs, carers and the like, and impacting heavily on families.

And importantly, for any EU citizen who holds Permanent Residence under the old scheme, there will be a simple process put in place to swap their current status for UK settled status.

File under: will believe it when I see it.

To keep development of the system on track, the Government is also setting up a User Group that will include representatives of EU citizens in the UK, and digital, technical and legal experts. This group will meet regularly, ensuring the process is transparent and responds properly to users’ needs. And we recognise that British nationals living in the EU27 will be similarly concerned about potential changes to processes after the UK leaves the EU. We have repeatedly flagged these issues during the negotiations. And we are keen to work closely with EU Member States to ensure their processes are equally streamlined.


We want people to stay and we want families to stay together.

Assuming you earn enough, that everyone’s in work, and that you can jump through enough hoops.

We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK.

Enough to leave them in limbo for a year and a half.

And I know that Member States value equally UK nationals living in their communities. I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.


Oh, and a quick PS to Theresa May and her government colleagues: are you even aware that EEA and Swiss nationals are in the UK on the same free movement rules? Given that you never mention them in your hot air letters, I suspect not.