Theresa May tells Swedish media she is close to deal on citizens’ rights and financial offer

Theresa May tells Swedish media she is close to deal on citizens' rights and financial offer
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at the EU summit. Photo: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo/TT
Speaking to a Swedish newspaper on Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested that she hoped to offer a financial deal to the EU next month – and claimed that all UK ministers were behind her vision for Brexit.

The British PM is in Sweden for the EU social summit in Gothenburg on Friday, where she is expected to come under pressure to move faster on Brexit plans.

READ MORE: Five things to look out for at the EU summit in Sweden

Speaking to Sweden's Dagens Nyheter by e-mail, May said: “As [Minister for Brexit] David Davis said last week, we have made significant progress on all the issues that must be resolved.”

Key issues include the rights for EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa, as well as the 'Brexit divorce bill', or the amount of money the UK will have to pay the bloc.

The EU wants the UK to pay its share of the union's long-term budget, including money for pensions, international aid, and other expenses which could add up to around €60 billion in total, but May is under pressure at home to reduce the total amount.

In the interview, May reiterated a point made at her Florence speech, in which she said Britain would make 'transition payments' in 2019 and 2020 and that it would live up to commitments made during the membership period. The article was headlined 'May ready to give EU new offer in Brexit negotiations', but the language used by the British PM was more guarded.

“Efforts to identify those commitments is progress,” she said, and added that the European Council's mid-December meeting in Brussels was “the next important time as we are working towards.”

She also asserted that the British public supported the government's delivery of a good Brexit, “regardless of how they voted”.

READ ALSO: How Brexit made me quit my job, pack up my life, and move to Sweden

May denied reports of cabinet rifts over Brexit policy, saying: “The government is united around the vision I laid out in my speech in Florence”, but adding that she also had “a very full and, yes, challenging domestic agenda”. 

This is despite the fact that on Wednesday, May told MPs in a parliamentary debate: “There is of course a lively debate going on in this place and that's right and proper and that's important […] there are strong views held on different sides of the argument about the European Union.” 

In her answers to DN, May called for a “bold and ambitious economic partnership” between the EU and the UK, and spoke about Sweden as a particularly close ally.

“The British and Swedish peoples have a unity based on our shared pragmatism but also a belief in social justice […] We want these ties to be deeper,” she said.

It is unclear what rights Swedes in the UK will have once Britain leaves the bloc or vice versa, and Sweden's minister for EU affairs and trade said at the start of this year that she had heard of many Swedes experiencing xenophobia in the UK after the Brexit vote.

READ MORE: Swedish minister reveals stories of xenophobia towards Swedes in the UK

May told DN she thought the EU and UK were “very close” to a reciprocal agreement on citizens' rights and stressed that no one currently living legally in the UK would be asked to leave.

Swedish citizens should feel welcome, she said, adding: “If there are situations where citizens are offended then I condemn it in the strongest terms”.