Britons in EU hail May’s ‘big step forward’ on residency rights | Politics

Campaigners for the rights of British nationals in Europe have urged the EU to reciprocate a “significant” offer from the government to allow them continued freedom of movement to retire or live in another country in the bloc after Brexit.

They made their call after Theresa May appeared to respond to a letter they sent following her Florence speech imploring her to make a gesture that would break the logjam in talks.

Under the offer, unveiled after the close of Brexit talks this week, EU citizens settled in the UK following Brexit would no longer be stripped of their rights to permanent residency if they move abroad for more than two years, for example for work or to look after an ill relative.

The offer was described as a “big step forward” by British in Europe, which campaigns for the preservation of rights of 1.2 million Britons on the continent. “We are delighted,” the group said in a statement.

It hopes the move will pave the way to persuading the EU that Britons already settled in Europe should continue to have freedom of movement after Brexit.

Britons have expressed fear that the loss of free movement rights would mean they are “locked in” to an EU member state to which they have emigrated, preventing them from returning to Britain to look after elderly relatives for a period of more than two years, or unable to retire to another EU country without going through immigration procedures for third-country nationals.

“We are delighted to hear that the UK government has shown the flexibility that we asked for on free movement and has offered guaranteed rights of return to EU citizens in the UK with the hope that the EU will respond with onward rights of free movement for UK citizens in the EU,” said Jane Golding, the chair of the group.

“This is what we asked for in our letter to Theresa May last week: we asked for a gesture to remove the logjam, and it looks like they have listened.”

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