PM’s offer to EU on citizens’ rights branded “pathetic” and “below expectations”, as migrant labour shortages begin to bite

A campaign group of EU citizens living in Britain has blasted Theresa May’s offer to the bloc on their residency rights after Brexit as “pathetic”.

At an EU conference on Thursday the Prime Minister offered EU citizens “settled status” if they have been in the country for five years.

While May described the offer as “fair and serious”, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said it was “below expectations and risks worsening the situation for citizens”.

Last week the EU made an offer to the UK government that would guarantee the current rights of the 1.2m British citizens living in Europe for the rest of their lives, including freedom of movement rights to work in other EU nations.

Co-chair of the 3Million group, which campaigns for the rights of the three million EU citizens living in Britain, Nicolas Hatton, called May’s offer “pathetic”.

He said: “There is something slightly pathetic about the Prime Minister’s proposal which makes no reference to the detailed, comprehensive offer tabled by the EU.

“The Prime Minister described her proposal as fair and serious. It’s neither fair nor serious.”

Hatton said May’s offer did not resolve uncertainty over keeping families together, working rights, the recognition of professional qualifications or whether EU citizens will retain UK rights if they move and work across a number of EU states.

UK citizens living in France were also critical of the offer, which they said could damage their position on the continent.

Expat Citizen Rights in EU spokesman, Dave Spoke, told the Guardian: “We find it bizarre that she expects the EU to reciprocate to her offer which falls short of their own. Does she expect the EU to water down its offer to match hers?

“This is not a negotiation to get the lowest possible price. It is, or should be, a negotiation to gain the best support for real people – a country’s citizens.”

Meanwhile a shortage of agricultural migrant workers from the EU has been blamed on the UK’s perceived unfriendliness to outsiders following the vote to leave.

In May there was a 17 percent shortfall of fruit and veg pickers, leaving some farms with critical staff shortages, a National Farmers Union survey found.

The drop in EU agricultural workers is because the UK is now seen as “racist” and “xenophobic”, the boss of a major agricultural recruitment firm said.

Hops Labour Solutions director, John Hardman, who estimates labour shortages of 20 percent, told the Guardian: “The grim reality is that the perception from overseas is we are xenophobic, we’re racist, and the pound has plummeted too.

“We’ve gone with a Brexit and that makes us look unfriendly. The immediate impact is that there will be crops left in the fields.”

An number of other industries and sectors have also warned of Brexit related labour shortages.