UK Prime Minister seeks to reassure expats

British Prime Minister Theresa May has sought to reassure Britons abroad in the EU and citizens of other EU countries in the UK as she heads to the European Council summit today.

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In an open letter, Mrs May says citizens’ rights have always been her priority and she wants to ‘put people first’.

At the Brussels summit, today and tomorrow, the leaders of the other 27 EU states will decide whether there has been ‘sufficient progress’ in the Brexit talks so far for a ‘second phase’ of talks to start about the future EU-UK relationship.

Lead EU negotiator Michel Barnier said after the negotiation round which finished last week, this was unlikely to be the case yet but he hoped that would change before the end of the year.

The ‘second phase’ relates to discussing matters like trade, immigration and defence, which would then have to be formalised with a further treaty or treaties once the UK has left. It could also include discussion on a possible ‘transition period’.

Matters like citizens’ rights, the Northern Ireland border and the financial settlement are part of the actual exit agreement, which will be drafted as a treaty once the parties have come to an agreement on all the main points.

Mrs May said in her letter today: “When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. Nothing could have been further from the truth. EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.”

She said the UK and EU are in ‘touching distance’ of an agreement on expat rights, with a ‘small number of important points’ left to finalise.

Mrs May added that the UK is working on simple procedures for EU citizens to secure their residency rights in the UK after Brexit, adding: “We recognise that British nationals living in the EU27 will be similarly concerned about potential changes to processes after the UK leaves the EU. We have repeatedly flagged these issues during the negotiations. And we are keen to work closely with EU member states to ensure their processes are equally streamlined.

We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK. And I know that member states value equally UK nationals living in their communities. I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.”

The message comes as Connexion also received a reassuring response to a letter to President Macron.

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