(CNN)In a Brexit divorce deal offering, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday said European Union citizens will be given the opportunity to stay in the United Kingdom after it leaves the EU.
May and other European officials are meeting in Brussels, Belgium, to begin negotiations for a UK exit from the EU after the country voted last year to leave. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty outlines the voluntary departure.
According to May’s office, any EU citizen living in the UK for five years or more by a yet-to-be specified cutoff date will be granted UK “settled status,” which gives them the same rights as British citizens to health care, education, welfare and pensions
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EU citizens living in the country for less than five years can stay and obtain residency status after reaching the five-year mark.
“The UK’s position represents a fair and serious offer,” May told EU leaders in Brussels. “One aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society.”
May’s offer will be put forth before Parliament next week.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday night, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says May’s EU citizens’ rights proposal is a “good start,” but there will be many other questions to be discussed.
The June 2016 Brexit vote in the hotly contested referendum exposed deep division across the country.
Earlier this year, the UK government formally served divorce papers on the EU, marking the beginning of the end of a relationship that has endured for 44 years. May confirmed then that UK had triggered Article 50, beginning the legal process that must end in two years’ time with Britain leaving the EU.
The UK must work out a number of issues after triggering Article 50 — including trade, migration, education and health care. Even if some terms of divorce are not settled, the UK will fall out of the union on March 29, 2019. They can split earlier if both parties agree.