British PM Theresa May defends proposals for EU citizens living in Britain

British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a press conference at the end of a European Council meeting, on the second day of a summit of European Union (EU) leaders at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, on June 23, 2017.
British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a press conference at the end of a European Council meeting, on the second day of a summit of European Union (EU) leaders at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, on June 23, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (REUTERS, AFP) - Prime Minister Theresa May defended her proposals to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain on Friday (June 23), saying several leaders of the bloc had reacted positively and she wanted agreement as soon as possible.

At a news conference after an EU summit in Brussels, May also said she wanted negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union to continue in the constructive fashion that was struck on Monday when they began.

"I remain of the view that this is a fair and serious offer and let's be clear about what we're saying: those citizens from EU countries that come to the United Kingdom and made their lives and homes in the United Kingdom will be able to stay and we will guarantee their rights in the United Kingdom," she said.

"I think that's a very serious offer. There are some differences between that and the proposals of the European Commission but the matter will now go into the negotiations."

The fate of around three million European citizens living in Britain after Brexit is one of the most contentious issues in the negotiations on Britain's withdrawal from the 28-member bloc, which began on Monday.

 

EU leaders gave a distinctly cool response on Friday to the British plans.

"That's a first step but this step is not sufficient," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters as he arrived for the second day of an EU summit in Brussels.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the proposal outlined by May over an EU leaders' dinner on Thursday was "particularly vague".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU's most powerful leader, said late Thursday that

May's plan was "a good start. But of course there are still many, many other questions".