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Families of EU nationals will not be broken up after Brexit, says Theresa May

The PM said the proposals would offer certainty for the 3.2 million EU nationals currently resident in the UK.

EU nationals living in the UK will not see their families broken up as a result of Brexit, Theresa May has said.

Setting out her detailed plans for protecting rights of EU nationals once Britain is out of the bloc, the Prime Minister said they would continue to be able to bring dependent family members to join them.

“No families will be split up. Family dependants who join a qualifying EU citizen here before the UK’s exit will be able to apply for settled status after five years,” she told MPs in a Commons statement.

“After the UK 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.”

Mrs May, who outlined her plans to fellow EU leaders at last week’s Brussels summit, said the proposals would offer certainty for the 3.2 million EU nationals currently resident in the UK.

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“Under these plans, no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU,” she said.

A Government paper outlines how EU nationals with five years’ continuous residence in the UK would be able to apply for “settled status” – effectively granting them indefinite leave to remain. “They will be treated as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, benefits and pensions,” Mrs May told the House.

Mrs May stressed that the offer was made on the basis that it would be fully reciprocated by the remaining 27 member states.

“That agreement must be reciprocal because we must protect the rights of UK citizens living in EU member states too,” she said.

The Prime Minister received a frosty response from some EU leaders in Brussels on Friday, with European Council President Donald Tusk saying the plan fell “below our expectations”.

The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned the proposals did not go far enough.

He said the EU remained committed to securing the same level of protection for its citizens as they currently enjoyed under EU law.

The European Parliament’s lead Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt welcomed the commitment to simplify the arrangements for those who wished to remain in the EU but said concerns remained.

“A number of limitations remain worrisome and will have to be carefully assessed,” he said.

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