Days after Brexit negotiations opened, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has made an offer to EU leaders on the issue of EU citizens’ rights – an issue that is a priority for both sides and affects 3 million EU citizens in the U.K. and 1.5 million Britons living in the EU.

The offer would create a new “settled status” for EU citizens who have lived in the U.K. for five years to remain permanently and enjoy equal rights to U.K. citizens. A cutoff date would be set, after which EU nationals would no longer be automatically eligible for settled status.

May rejected the EU’s position that the cutoff date should be Brexit day (estimated March 29, 2019), and instead indicated that the cutoff date would be negotiated and should fall sometime between the date the U.K. triggered Article 50 (March 29, 2017) and Brexit day. EU citizens who arrive before the cutoff date will be given a grace period to reach the five-year residency prerequisite. And those arriving after the cutoff date but before Brexit day will be allowed approximately two years to obtain a work permit or leave the U.K.

The prime minister made the overture while speaking after a dinner at the EU leaders summit in Brussels, calling it a “fair and serious offer.” The deal would require the EU to reciprocate by giving the same rights to U.K. citizens living in the EU. May also said that she did not want to see families split up, indicating that family members could be included in the offer.

The EU’s negotiating position is that all EU citizens who have lived in the U.K. while it was an EU member, and current and future family members, should enjoy a continued right to settle after the U.K. leaves the bloc.

In her speech in Brussels, May also rejected the EU’s stance that the rights of EU nationals should continue to fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, indicating that U.K. courts would hear cases of EU nationals under U.K. law. May’s hard Brexit plan would remove the U.K. from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

BAL Analysis: May said that the offer was intended to provide “as much certainty as possible” to EU citizens in the U.K., but the parties remain divided on several key issues regarding citizens’ rights and, without a known cutoff date, EU citizens in the U.K. remain uncertain about their rights to remain.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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