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Theresa May tells EU citizens living in Britain: 'We want you to stay'

3 min read

Theresa May has urged EU citizens currently living in the UK not to leave – and pledged that "no families will be split up" as a result of Brexit.

In what appeared to be a major concession, the Prime Minister revealed that the relatives of those who gain so-called "settled status" could also gain the right to live and work in Britain.

The offer was contained in a 15-page document detailing the Government's proposals on what should happen to EU citizens after Britain quits the bloc.

In a Commons statement, Mrs May said: “We want certainty. I know there’s been some anxiety about what would happen to EU citizens at the point we leave the European Union.

“I want to put that anxiety to rest, I want to completely reassure these people that under these plans no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU. We want you to stay.”

The Prime Minister added: “No families will be split up. Family dependents who join a qualifying EU citizen here before the UK’s exit will be able to apply for settled status after five years.

“And after the UK has left the European Union, EU citizens with settled status will be able to bring family members from overseas on the same terms as British nationals.”

That could mean that far more than the three million European citizens currently in the UK could end up gaining the right to stay in this country after Brexit.

European leaders reacted angrily last week when Mrs May presented her plans for European citizens resident in the UK at an EU summit in Brussels.

EU Council president Donald Tusk said the plan – which would grant full residency rights to those living in Britain for at least five years – was “below expectation”.

The document published today fleshing out the proposals raised the possibility of EU citizens needing to carry a type of ID card to show to their employers or if they want to access public services.

It said: “Obtaining documentation showing their settled status will enable EU citizens resident here to carry on living here lawfully. 

“Moreover it will help them to demonstrate to employers and other service providers their ongoing rights to be in the UK and to enjoy entitlements to benefits and public services.”

However, Mrs May has set herself on a collision course with the EU over her demand that those with settled status come under the jurisdiction of British courts, rather than the European Court of Justice.

She said: “Of course we’re looking at a variety of arrangements for the enforcement of agreements that we come to. In relation to the EU citizens’ rights, if these form part of the withdrawal treaty they will be enshrined in international law.

“But also I think we should recognise that our courts are world renowned, they are respected around the world and what I would like to see and would expect is that these citizens’ rights for EU citizens in the UK would be upheld and enforced in our courts in the same way that UK citizens’ rights are upheld and enforced by our courts.”

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