UK′s Labour party backs rights for EU citizens in Brexit deal | News | DW | 25.04.2017

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UK's Labour party backs rights for EU citizens in Brexit deal

Britain's largest opposition party has vowed to guarantee EU citizens rights if elected to govern in June. Roughly 3 million EU citizens reside in the UK. Analysts believe they may be used as bargaining chips.

Britain's opposition Labour Party on Tuesday announced it would guarantee the right of EU citizens residing in the country if it wins a general election slated for June 8.

Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has yet to guarantee EU citizens' rights in the country, called for snap elections, throwing opposition parties into a frenzy as they scrambled to establish a campaign six weeks away from election day.

May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March, effectively starting a 2-year process to negotiate the country's exit from the EU after British citizens voted narrowly in favor of Brexit.

"EU nationals do not just contribute to our society: they are our society. And they should not be used as bargaining chips," said Labour's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer.

"So on day one of a Labour government, we will immediately guarantee that all EU nationals currently living in the UK will see no change in their legal status as a result of Brexit, and we will seek reciprocal rights for UK citizens in the EU," he added.

Approximately 3 million EU citizens reside in the UK, while 1 million British citizens reside elsewhere throughout the bloc.

Brexit moves forward

For the most part, European officials have seen the elections in a positive light, saying it will grant British citizens more say in how the negotiations will take place between London and Brussels.

European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani said that he believed the elections are not only good for the UK, but also the EU since it would mean negotiations would be conducted with the same government through the span of the divorce process.

In Berlin, the government said the elections would not delay negotiations for the UK's separation from the EU after German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with the British premier.

"The German government goes not expect the election to interfere with the process of negotiations with Britain on leaving the EU," government spokesman Ulrike Demmer said in a statement.

Formal negotiations are expected to begin immediately following the British elections.

ls/rt (Reuters, AP)