Prime Minister Theresa May will bid to break a deadlock on the rights of EU nationals later this week

Mark Sands
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Theresa May To Be New Prime Minister By Wednesday Evening
May will head to Brussels on Thursday for an EU council summit (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May will offer to protect the rights of European nationals as part of Brexit negotiations later this week.

May will visit Brussels on Thursday in a personal bid to end almost exactly a year of uncertainty for both Britons in Europe and foreign nationals resident in the UK.

The Prime Minister is expected to table the matter at an EU Council meeting, offering to guarantee protection for EU migrants in exchange for safeguards on British citizens in Europe.

May had hoped to secure guarantees on both sides as early as last year, but the move was reportedly blocked by EU leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Talks will begin formally on Monday, with Brexit secretary David Davis set to sit down with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Read More: Overwhelming support for giving EU migrants right to stay in UK

The news comes ahead of a crunch week for May, who is under sustained pressure after losing seats at a General Election that she called.

Downing Street has scheduled the Queen's Speech for Wednesday, with a vote on May's programme likely to take place a week later.

The Sunday Times reports that Conservative backbenchers are already drafting letters of no confidence ahead of the speech.

Although almost 50 would be needed to force a leadership contest, May could step down if a smaller number of MPs went public with their discontent.

However, one Conservative MP played down the threat of an imminent rebellion, telling City A.M. that opinion among Tories had yet to decisively shift.

“There are a whole load of people asking what happens next, and there are a small number stomping their feet and saying she has to go, but they are the usual suspects. There aren't any new names saying anything,” they said.

Read More: Philip Hammond: Tories made a mistake not focusing on economy in campaign

One contender to replace May could be chancellor Philip Hammond, who this morning hinted at his own agenda for Brexit.

Despite sticking to Downing Street's key lines of quitting both the Single Market and the Customs Union, Hammond pulled away from the Prime Minister's mantra of “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

May has repeatedly used the line to stress her willingness to walk away from negotiations, but Hammond warned today: “No deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain”.

Hammond also warned of the need to avoid “cliff edges” in the UK's relationship with the EU.

“What we put in place may not be a single arrangement that endures forever, it may be an arrangement which lasts for a couple of years as a temporary measure before we get to the long-term agreed status quo,” he said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

Later on ITV's Peston on Sunday, he added: “We need a transitional arrangement to get from where we are now to whatever future arrangements we agree with the European Union. The most important ask from business – almost more important than what the end result looks like – is that we have a smooth path to get there. Because anything that created a cliff edge in 2019 would be very, very damaging to the UK economy.”

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