Brexit: Theresa May’s ‘people first’ letter met with ridicule among Brits in France

Brexit: Theresa May's 'people first' letter met with ridicule among Brits in France
Photo: AFP
British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to ease worries of EU nationals in the UK and Brits living in France on Thursday by insisting she was ready to put "people first". But her open letter was not greeted warmly by many this side of the Channel.

The under pressure prime minister will have to do a lot more to ease the Brexit concerns of Brits in France if the reaction to her open letter on Thursday is anything to go by.

May's letter that was meant for EU citizens living in the UK but also mentioned UK nationals living in France and throughout the EU, was published as she headed to Brussels where she is expected to make a plea to EU leaders to allow talks on future trade relations to progress.

May writes: “I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority. 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.”

The PM says her priority is to reach an agreement “that works for people here in the UK, and people in the EU.”

“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.”

While May insists her government is “within touching distance” of an agreement, Brits in France who are opposed to Brexit, were less than impressed with her attempt to reassure them.

While some members of the anti-Brexit Remain in France Together (RIFT) Facebook group accepted some progress was being made, the reality is Brits in France still feel in limbo.

“Continuous wiffle-waffle”, “too little too late” and “nothing new here” were just some of the more critical reactions.

Gary Angell said: “That has got to be a wind-up” in reaction to May's words “I have been clear throughout this process”.

John Penny took up the same point: “She always starts with the same lie: 'I have been clear'”:

Craig McGinty believes May needs to flesh out her words with more concrete proposals.

“There is no real meat on the bones. Ultimately the real audience for this letter is the EU27, who will dismiss it, not EU citizens and us lot over here.”

And Graham Clark was equally unimpressed: “She says nothing about a 'no deal' however. Seeing she keeps promoting this, surely she should have addressed this in her email and be pushing to ring fence what has been agreed for both EU and UK Nationals who have already suffered well over a year of uncertainty over their entire futures.”

The website attempted to interpret for itself exactly what May really meant in her letter.

Brits in France worried about Brexit have regularly let their feelings be known to the government or its representatives in France.

Last month The Local reported how the British Ambassador in Paris Edward Llewelyn was criticized for his own attempt to update Brits in France on the ongoing Brexit negotiations and to stress there was good news to report back on the progress being made.

As far as his compatriots in France were concerned, there was no good news.

Anxious Brits in France blast UK ambassador over Brexit 'progress' claims