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May pledges to let EU citizens in Britain stay after Brexit

BRUSSELS: Prime Minister Theresa May set out what she called a "fair deal" for European Union (EU) citizens living in Britain on Thursday, saying she did not want anyone to have to leave or to split up families due to Brexit.

Mrs May told other EU leaders at a summit in Brussels that she wanted to offer certainty to EU citizens, said a senior British government source.

While they go some way to ease concerns of the 3 million EU nationals in Britain, their leaders will no doubt want more detail and may query the lack of a firm cut-off date for any changes to immigration rules - the EU is insisting on no changes until Britain leaves in 2019.

It was her first foray into the Brexit talks, one timed to coincide with coffee at the end of dinner by EU leaders who have warned her not to use Council summits as a negotiating chamber for Britain's departure.

Mrs May outlined the plan many in her party who campaigned for Brexit hope will reduce the flow of migrants to Britain, then she left.

The others went on to discuss Britain's departure without her.

Mrs May told leaders she wanted to offer certainty by saying no EU citizens in Britain lawfully would be asked to leave at Brexit, and that all EU citizens lawfully in the country at the point of Brexit would be able to regularise their status.

She would also offer any EU citizen resident for five years - at some cut-off date - the opportunity to get settled status, which would treat them as British citizens for healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.

In a nod to Britons living on the continent, she said: "Reciprocity was, of course, vital."

But there were bound to be sticking points.

The EU leaders want their citizens' rights after Brexit enforceable in their European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, while Mrs May has repeatedly said, according to the source, that EU citizens could rely on the protection of "our highly respected courts".

Her aide declined to add detail, saying the government would present a paper to parliament on Monday. - REUTERS

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