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David Davis: EU nationals in UK could get window of time for family reunion

In a letter posted on Facebook, Theresa May said “we want families to stay together”.

European Union nationals in Britain could be given a window of time in which their family members will be able move to the country after Brexit, David Davis has said.

The Brexit Secretary’s intervention, as EU leaders meet at a crunch summit in Brussels, suggests the UK could offer fresh concessions on citizens’ rights to get negotiations moving on to trade and a transition deal.

Brussels figures and campaigners in the UK have raised concerns that Theresa May’s offer to give three million EU nationals in Britain “settled status”, subject to certain tests, waters down their rights to family reunion.

The issue is believed to be a sticking point in the deadlocked first stage of negotiations on withdrawal issues, which also include the so-called “divorce bill” and the Irish border.

But in a letter posted on Facebook and mailed to 100,000 EU nationals, Mrs May said “we want families to stay together”.

In an interview with European newspapers, Mr Davis appeared to go further by suggesting EU nationals could enjoy the same family reunion rights as they do now for a limited period of time after Brexit in March 2019.

The Brexit Secretary said: “The issue is that in order to give perpetuity on family rights it would give to three million people in the UK rights that British citizens themselves don’t have. I am trying to think of a way of maybe a short-term way of sorting this, a certain window whatever.”

Asked if the window could be five or 10 years, Mr Davis replied: “Whatever that might be, might be a bit shorter than that. We haven’t engaged on that negotiation properly, it’s next on the agenda. We will talk about that.”

Nicolas Hatton, co-founder of the3million campaign group which represents EU nationals in the UK, noted the change in tone on family reunion and called for dialogue.

“Perhaps this letter will open the door,” he said.

But he rejected Mrs May’s claim that Britain and the EU are within “touching distance” of agreement on citizens’ rights.

“We are barely out of the starting blocks,” Mr Hatton said.

“For the past year, we have unsuccessfully tried to meet with David Davis and Theresa May.

“We have also made detailed objections to the proposed ‘settled status’ which have been read but seem to have been comprehensively ignored.”

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