March 6, 2018 / 1:45 PM / a year ago

Brexit deal on citizens' rights close - EU's Verhofstadt

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, speaks outside 10 Downing Street in London, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and the European Union are close to agreeing a deal guaranteeing the rights of expatriate citizens after Brexit, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, said on Tuesday after meeting Prime Minister Theresa May.

Citizens’ rights are one of the relatively easier parts of the negotiation to unravel more than 40 years of union, but hit a snag when Britain said those people arriving from the EU after Brexit day in March next year would be treated differently.

At a meeting in London, May reiterated her belief that the “expectations of those moving to the UK in this period will not be the same as those who arrived before our withdrawal”, her spokesman said, but offered little detail on her position.

Last week, the government said EU citizens arriving in Britain during a post-Brexit transition period would be able to apply for indefinite leave to stay in the country, but that their rights would be governed by British courts.

“I think it is possible in the coming days and coming weeks ... (to) make progress on this and (that) we can conclude on this,” Verhofstadt told reporters.

“It should be fine that the citizens rights’ chapter is done, it is finished, it is concluded and everybody knows, UK nationals and EU citizens know, what their status is in the future.”

Other aspects of a deal to end Britain’s membership of the EU are likely to be more complicated.

May urged EU negotiators last week to show more flexibility in talks on a future relationship, asking them to seal a deep trade deal, unlike any that has been signed before, to avoid any hard border with EU member Ireland.

But many of her ideas were met with scepticism, with Verhofstadt saying Britain had added a “few extra cherries on the cake”.

Reporting By Andrew MacAskill and Elizabeth Piper, editing by Stephen Addison

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