Merkel calls UK Brexit offer ‘good start’

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Brussels, June 23 (IANS) German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described UK plans to ensure the rights of EU citizens in Britain after Brexit as “a good start”.

However, she said there were “many, many other questions” about Brexit and there was “still a lot to do”, BBC reported.

“Theresa May made clear today that EU citizens who have been in Great Britain for five years can keep their full rights. That’s a good start,” said Merkel at the end of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday.

“But of course there are many, many other questions about Brexit – about finances, about the relationship with Ireland – which means we still have a lot to do until October.”

Britain’s proposal was unveiled by Prime Minister Theresa May at the EU summit. It would grant EU migrants who had lived in the UK for five years a new “UK settled status”, the report said.

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That would allow them to stay in the country and access health, education and other benefits. The plan would affect 3.2 million EU citizens now living in the UK.

Their rights, and the rights of UK citizens living in the rest of the EU, are among the thorny issues that have to be resolved early on in Brexit talks, along with the UK’s divorce bill and the Northern Ireland border.

Merkel insisted that Brexit was not the focus of the summit. “For me the shaping of the future of the 27 is a priority coming before the issue of the negotiations with Britain on the exit,” she said.

Before May’s offer, the EU proposed that EU citizens in the UK and the estimated 1.2 million Britons living in EU countries should continue enjoying the same rights, enforceable by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

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At the summit, the British PM sought to reassure the 27 other EU states, saying the UK “does not want anyone here to have to leave, nor does it want families to be split up”.

“No-one will face a cliff edge,” May said.

–IANS

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