Campaigners believe that Britain and the European Union may have moved a step nearer to ending the impasse over citizens’ rights.
The group British in Europe had written to Prime Minister Theresa May in the wake of her recent speech to an audience in Florence, urging her to make a gesture which could break the deadlock in Brexit negotiations.
This week it was revealed that Mrs May had responded to their correspondence and indicated that EU citizens settled in the UK after its departure from the EU would no longer be stripped of rights to permanent residency if they moved abroad for over two years.
Previously there had been concerns that individuals who left the UK to find work elsewhere or because of a change in personal circumstances (such as a relative falling ill) would be frozen out if they later tried to return.
British in Europe is now urging Brussels to reciprocate Mrs May’s offer.
Jane Golding, who chairs the group, said: “We are delighted to hear that the UK Government has shown the flexibility that we asked for on free movement and has offered guaranteed rights of return to EU citizens in the UK with the hope that the EU will respond with onward rights of free movement for UK citizens in the EU.
“This is what we asked for in our letter to Theresa May last week: we asked for a gesture to remove the logjam, and it looks like they have listened.”
There has also been a broad welcome for a separate announcement by the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, who has confirmed that those who had been through the process of applying for permanent residency would not be required to “go through the whole process again” when it comes to registration following Brexit.
“There was a real sense that progress was made. We really welcome that,” said Nicolas Hatton, who co-founded the 3million, a group which campaigns on behalf of EU citizens in the UK. “There is still work to do though.”
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