British Prime Minister Theresa May tried Monday to reassure European Union citizens living in Britain that their lives and those of their family will not be disrupted when Britain leaves the EU in 2019.
She told Parliament that steps will be taken to make sure the split with the EU is handled with care with regard to the estimated 3 million EU citizens living inside Britain. She said Britain wants them to stay after Brexit.
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"No families will be split up," she said, adding that family dependants who move to Britain to join an EU citizen living here would be able to apply for "settled" status after five years.
That will be the term used for EU citizens who meet the five-year rule. May says they will be entitled to full U.K. health and pension benefits.
"After the U.K. 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," she said.
She said her plans mean that no one from the EU who is now in Britain lawfully will be made to leave when Brexit happens.
The prime minister said this offer will be dependent on British citizens in the 27 other EU countries receiving the same treatment from those countries.
"Our offer will give those 3 million EU citizens in the U.K. certainty about the future of their lives and a reciprocal agreement will provide the same certainty for the more than 1 million citizens living in the European Union," she said.
May was elaborating on proposals made last week during a summit of EU leaders. She said she wants to resolve the issue early in the two-year Brexit negotiations to ease anxiety for EU citizens living in Britain.
EU officials had said the proposals were a reasonable first step but fell short of expectations.
After Monday's announcement, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, tweeted that there was still "more ambition, clarity and guarantees needed."
Many details have not yet been worked out and further negotiations are expected.