January 19, 2017 / 9:10 AM / 2 years ago

Poland's priority for Brexit is to guarantee rights of Poles in Britain - PM

Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo waves as she arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir - RTX2V64X

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s priority in Brexit talks will be to obtain a guarantee that the current rights of Poles living in Britain will be upheld, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said on Thursday in Warsaw’s first reaction to a decisive speech by her British counterpart.

In a highly anticipated speech on Wednesday, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged for the first time that her government’s Brexit strategy will require withdrawing from Europe’s single market and limits on immigration from the continent.

Szydlo said May called her on Wednesday after the speech to present Britain’s Brexit objectives. According to UK official data, there were more than 831,000 Poles living in Britain in 2015.

The British government’s position on citizens living in Britain is that they want to be able to guarantee their rights post-Brexit. But, the government has also said it is not prepared to guarantee rights of people here without the EU doing the same for Brits abroad.

“I drew her attention to three issues that are most important to Poland. The first is the situation of Poles living in Britain and guaranteeing them the rights which they had acquired,” Szydlo told the state-run radio.

“As I told the prime minister, for us this is the key issue in the negotiations with Britain and Warsaw definitely will not step back,” she said.

Szydlo also said Brexit should not compromise the EU’s free cross-border movement of people or its current budget.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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