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Fears for future of EU citizens in UK after Brexit are overblown, says German business leader

 Pro-EU campaigners protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London


Fears over the future of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit have been blown out of proportion, the head of Germany’s UK-based industry body has told the Telegraph, as he praised Theresa May’s “genuine offer” of settled status and called for trade talks to begin “as soon as possible.”

Dr Bernd Atenstaedt, the chairman of German Industry UK, warned that businesses were increasingly frustrated by the EU’s refusal to open discussions on trade, which are being held up until the bloc decides “sufficient progress” has been made on the key issues of citizens rights, Ireland and the so-called Brexit bill.

The business leader said he could not see why Brussels was pushing for more assurances from Mrs May on citizens rights, as Britain had a better track record for honoring its obligations to the bloc than Germany. 

“The UK has always been very faithful to EU directives, even the Germans don’t put as many EU directives in German law as the British do,” Dr Atenstaedt told the Telegraph.

“So I believe they are making a genuine offer in Brussels [on citizens rights.] I believe them when they say that is what they are going to do.”

Pro-EU demonstrators rally during the People's March for Europe against Brexit in Parliament Square
Pro-EU demonstrators rally during the People’s March for Europe against Brexit in Parliament Square CREDIT: NIKLAS HALLE’N 


Dr Atenstaedt added that he had “no doubt” EU citizens would be safe in the hands of the British government, while he believed that critics of the settled status model had “gone a little bit over the top.”

“I think that settled status will happen, I do not doubt it. Meanwhile I never hear any news from Brussels on what they will do with British nationals in the EU,” he said.

“As far as I am concerned, as an EU citizen I cannot see why I would not be protected.  I believe strongly that we can have settled status. I see no problem for us about this. People who are terribly worried, saying they don’t know that to do, I think that is a little bit over the top. This is a fair country.

“Now we just want to see trade talks start as soon as possible and want to see settled status passed into law, Until then we are left in limbo.”

The British government has said it will grant permanent residence to the three million EU citizens currently living in the UK if they apply for settled status.

Settled status is defined by the government as giving EU citzens “the right to live in Britain, to undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and to apply for British citizenship.”

Prime Minister Theresa May sought to quell EU workers' fears about Brexit at a keynote speech in Florence
Prime Minister Theresa May sought to quell EU workers’ fears about Brexit at a keynote speech in Florence


Critics of the proposal say that it will render EU workers second class citizens as they will have to join a special ID register and may be unable to vote in local elections.

EU workers would also lose their right to bring a spouse to live with them in Britain unless they met a minimum income threshold of £18,600.

Activists lobbying on behalf of EU citizens, such as the “3million” group, have accused the government of treating them like “bargaining chips” in the Brexit negotiations.

Divisions between the UK and the EU on citizens rights remain, despite Mrs May’s offer – the bloc has demanded that its European Court of Justice continues to have powers over British courts to ensure EU citizens’ rights are upheld.

On the issue of future trade talks, Dr Atenstaedt  predicted that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, would have a “calming effect” on the strained relationships between British and European politicians.

“She will have a more calming influence on the talks in Brussels and has always had very positive trade relations with the UK on trade,” he said.

But he also revealed the frustration of German businesses in the UK, who feel “none the wiser” about what a future EU-UK trade agreement might look like, despite meeting with senior British officials earlier this week.

“We asked the officials what an agreement would look like – would it be like the Canada-EU trade deal? They said they were working towards a unique agreement.

The trouble is, as businesses we need to know now. We had good discussions but we are no wiser than we were before.

“We want to talk trade as soon as possible. We asked the British officials and they told us trade talks will start in December after the European Council gives the green light,” he added.

“They are very hopeful that they will get the green light.”  The UK is Germany’s third largest export market in goods worldwide after the UK and France.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/27/fears-future-eu-citizens-uk-brexit-overblown-says-german-business/

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