Open letter from British leader claims EU nationals living lawfully in the UK will be able to stay, despite Brexit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has told the EU citizens who live in the U.K. that they are not “bargaining chips” in Brexit negotiations.

In an open letter published ahead of an EU summit on Thursday in Brussels, May gave further assurances to EU citizens who are in the U.K. and British nationals settled in EU states.

“I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority,” she wrote.

May said her government and fellow EU leaders have a common objective “to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the U.K. and U.K. nationals living in the EU.”

The letter is aimed at breaking what the EU has described as “deadlock” reached in negotiations with the EU.

Claiming that a deal regarding the citizens’ rights was “in touching distance”, May said “it will provide guarantees that the rights of those U.K. nationals currently living in the EU, and EU citizens currently living in the U.K., will not diverge over time”.

“EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country,” May added.

“And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.”

Summit

May will meet 27 EU leaders on Thursday in a bid to make them agree that enough progress has been made in Brexit talks to move onto a second phase of negotiations, which will shape future trade relations between the sides.

However, EU leaders have said progress so far has not been enough, last week saying Brexit talks had reached a “disturbing deadlock”.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer from Britain’s opposition Labour Party said they welcomed May’s letter but what she is saying must be materialized and they would support a change in legislation.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will also be in Brussels on Thursday to meet EU leaders before they meet the prime minister. Speaking to Sky News, Corbyn said he would meet EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

The U.K. is expected to leave the EU in March 2019, ending a 44-year partnership with the bloc.

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