The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has promised to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to stay in the UK after Brexit.
Ahead of a key summit of European leaders. she took to Facebook to insist the application process for settled status would be streamlined and at the lowest cost possible.
At a meeting on Friday, at which the UK will not be present, EU leaders are expected to conclude officially that “insufficient progress” has been made on the status of EU nationals in the UK and British expats on the continent – and other separation issues – to move onto the second phase of trade discussions.
Donald Tusk, the chairman of EU leaders, said on Wednesday“We have to work really hard between October and December to finalise this so-called first phase and to start negotiating on our future relationship with the UK.”
In a direct appeal to 100,000 EU nationals who have asked to receive updates on citizens’ rights, Mrs May offered further assurances:
“We are in touching distance of agreement” of securing the rights of the around 3 million people from other EU countries in Britain.
“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 wrote on her Facebook page
She added that she will set up a group of those affected and digital, technical and legal experts to make sure the process remains smooth.
“I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals for finalising the agreement with an open mind. And with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.”
Offering concessions, May said that EU citizens settling in Britain will no longer need to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance, as they currently have to under EU rules.
A senior government official said the aim was to get clear commitments to “swift progress on both sides for an ambitious plan to be set out for what should be achieved in the weeks ahead and particularly a shared urgency in reaching an agreement on citizens’ rights.”
EU negotiators have, however, so far been wary of British offers that London refuses to back up by giving people a right to ask the EU court to enforce if British courts do not.