LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May has softened her stance on EU citizens living in the UK, offering to allow the estimated 3 million people currently living in the UK to remain in Britain post-Brexit.
The Prime Minister made what she called a “fair and serious” offer to EU leaders on Thursday evening to guarantee the rights and status of EU citizens in the UK, provided that EU countries do the same for Brits living abroad.
EU citizens who have been living in the UK for at least 5 years would be given “settled status,” allowing them full rights to pensions, healthcare, education, and benefits. May also promised to scrap the UK’s 85-page application form for EU citizens applying for residency, replacing it with a simpler digital form.
The Prime Minister made the offer to the EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday during a two-day summit. It is the first time May has met with European officials since her disastrous snap election earlier in the month.
The offer to protect EU citizens’ rights is likely to be well received in Brussels. European leaders have repeatedly said that protecting the rights of EU citizens living in the UK is one of their highest priorities. Negotiators also said earlier this month that they want to protect the rights of UK nationals living abroad, making a reciprocal deal likely.
May’s offer to guarantee EU citizens rights represents an olive branch to EU negotiators and a softening of her earlier position. The Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to guarantee EU citizens rights over the last year, leading to claims she was using people as “bargaining chips.”
Labour MPs and the House of Lords put pressure on the government to guarantee EU citizens rights in March with an amendment calling for rights to be guaranteed during the negotiating process.
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