Britain will continue to pay millions of pounds in child benefit to children living across Europe after Brexit – despite widespread anger at the handouts.
The country forks out around £30 million a year in benefits to 34,000 children living across the bloc, mostly in Poland.
David Cameron tried and failed to scrap the payments as part of his doomed renegotiation with the EU, but there had been hopes Brexit would finally end them.
But in a costly concession to Brussels, Britain looks sets to be chained to these handouts for many years to come.
It was contained in a 15-page policy paper which sets out the government’s plans to protect the rights of EU nationals living in Britain.
The document states that the ‘export of UK benefits’ will be ‘protected for those that are exporting such UK benefits on the specified date, including child benefit, subject to on-going entitlement to the benefit’.
This means that EU nationals who arrive here before the cut off date – which will be some time between March this year and March 2019 – will still get the handouts.
While the EU migrants who are not already sending the benefits abroad ‘will be treated on the same basis as UK nationals in future’.
There have long been calls for the payments to be stopped for parents whose children do not live in the UK.
Mr Cameron wanted to scrap them when he embarked on his attempt to renegotiate Britain’s deal with Europe, but the other member states refused.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier responded to the offer by insisting the bloc would be demanding more
Instead they offered him a much watered-down compromise which would see the handouts discounted by being linked to the cost of living where the child resides.
Yesterday, Theresa May revealed the full details of her ‘fair and serious’ offer to protect the rights of 3.2million EU nationals living in Britain.
The Prime Minister said all EU citizens who have been living in the UK for five years will be able to remain and keep rights equivalent to those of Britons.
The numbers could potentially rise significantly as family members who join EU nationals in the UK before Brexit takes place will also be allowed to apply for ‘settled status’.
Anyone who moves to Britain before the cut off date will be allowed to stay and gain ‘settled status’ after five years.