Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

U.K. Considers Promising EU Citizens They Can Stay After Brexit

  • Europeans in U.K. need reassurance early in talks: Jones
  • City of London finance district ranks “top of list” for deal

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is considering a unilateral pledge to allow three million European citizens residing in the country to remain after Brexit, even before British expatriates obtain the same assurance about their future. 

Brexit Minister David Jones told lawmakers in London on Tuesday that he wanted the rights of EU nationals living in the U.K. to be among the first questions settled in talks over the country’s exit from the bloc. “It is certainly something that is being considered,” Jones told the EU committee of the House of Lords, when asked if there was merit in making a unilateral declaration to guarantee EU residents’ rights.

The fate of three million EU nationals living in the U.K. is one of the most difficult questions for May to resolve. She has said she wants to ensure they can stay in Britain after the country leaves the EU but that she’s waiting for other European leaders to guarantee similar rights for British nationals living elsewhere in Europe first.

Jones’s comments mark a clear shift from May’s stance, and that of U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, whose office told a group of EU citizens that their right to stay in the country after Brexit could not be guaranteed. According to a letter from Rudd’s office, cited in The Guardian newspaper on Monday, the U.K. would lose “negotiating capital” in Europe if it made the kind of unilateral declaration that Jones says he’s weighing. 

Jones also told the committee his Brexit department is prioritizing banks and insurance firms as it prepares for the start of negotiations, expected by the end of March. The government is conducting extensive consultations with more than 50 sectors of the economy, Jones said.

“It won’t surprise you to hear that the City of London is at the very top of that list, and that consultation continues,” he said.

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