British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk pose for photographers at an EU leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk pose for photographers at an EU leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium. FRANCOIS LENOIR / POOL

May plays her opening Brexit hand

THERESA May has played her opening gambit of Brexit negotiations, telling European leaders she will offer some three million EU citizens a new "settled status” allowing them to stay in Britain if they have lived there five years.

People gaining it would secure rights on healthcare, education and benefits broadly similar to those enjoyed by EU citizens in the UK now, the UK Prime Minister said.

But in a move giving her leverage, she refused to reveal the date after which new arrivals would no longer be guaranteed the status - leaving a group of people uncertain of their UK residency.

The extra bargaining power could be deployed as she pushes Brussels to ditch its demand that EU citizens' rights are guaranteed by the European Court of Justice even after Brexit - something she told leaders would not happen under her plan.

Ms May played her hand on the opening day of the European Council summit, where a string of leaders suggested Britain could come back to the union if it changed its mind on Brexit.

Ms May told EU leaders her "fair and serious offer” was aimed at giving as "much certainty as possible as to citizens settled in the UK, building careers and lives”.

The British offer stood only on the basis that a reciprocal one was made for UK citizens living in EU countries, Ms May's officials said. - INM



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