Britain has confirmed it will give EU citizens arriving in the UK during the Brexit transition period the same rights as those who arrived before.
The concession will be seen as a major climbdown by Theresa May, who had previously said EU nationals moving to the UK after March 2019 should not expect to be granted full citizens’ rights.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leading backbench Tory Brexiteer, has previously said this would be “unconscionable”.
A draft agreement unveiled today will grant the UK a transition period lasting from March 2019 until December 2020.
During that period, the UK will have to abide by all EU rules until the end of the transition but will not have any say in deciding them.
In exchange, the UK will be allowed to negotiate new international trade deals during the period at the same time as retaining the benefits of the single market and customs union.
But a crucial agreement to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland remains unresolved.
The legal text will be presented to EU leaders for their agreement at the European Council on Thursday.
Speaking in Brussels today, Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was a “significant step” forward.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said today the draft deal, was a “decisive step” forward.
But he warned “not the end of the road” and there remained “a lot of work still to be done”.
Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister, said this morning negotiations on the border were “moving forward”.
Theresa May said “with good will on both sides” a Brexit deal that would be “good for all parts of the UK” as well as the EU could be reached.
Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, said the government could have reached an agreement months ago if ministers had not “wasted time fighting among themselves”.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the CBI, said the deal would persaude companies to put their “contingency planning on hold and keep investing in the UK”.
“This is what businesses have been calling for since last summer. It brings a welcome gift of time for firms on both sides,” she said.
“While some sectors may need more than 20 months to prepare for post-Brexit life, this is a victory for common sense that will help protect living standards, jobs and growth.
It shows what can be achieved when people and prosperity are placed above politics and ideology.”