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Brexit citizens' rights deal 'within touching distance'

Theresa May confident 'sufficient progress' will have been made by December.

Mrs May indicated 'no deal' was still an option in Brexit negotiations
Mrs May indicated 'no deal' was still an option in Brexit negotiations PA

Brexit negotiations are within "touching distance" of a deal on citizens' rights, Theresa May has told Parliament, adding that she expects "sufficient progress" to have been made by December to move Brexit talks on to trade.

In a statement to the House of Commons, the prime minister said that protections for British nationals living in Europe and European nationals living in Britain were a priority and that agreement was close.

"I'd have a degree of confidence that we'd be able to get to the point of sufficient progress by December," she said.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed her optimistic line, pointing out the prime minister had made similar comments before.

"I'm beginning to feel a very worrying sense of Groundhog Day here every time she gives us an update on the progress of negotiations," he said.

He also pointed to ongoing Cabinet divisions over whether "no deal" would be acceptable, a scenario Mrs May indicated was still an option.

"Of course, we are preparing for every eventuality to ensure we leave in a smooth and orderly way," she told MPs.

"But I am confident that we will be able to negotiate a new, deep and special partnership between a sovereign United Kingdom and our friends in the European Union."

She offered some small indications of where talks were heading, saying that there would be "no physical infrastructure" at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and reiterating her comments to European leaders that Britain will be "unconditionally committed" to European security.

But she ducked a question by Mr Corbyn over whether she had privately assured European leaders that Britain would pay more for its divorce settlement than she had previously said.

"What I set out to the European Council was what I set out in my Florence speech and what I have just repeated in my statement," she responded.

The Commons clash comes as business leaders called on the government to agree a Brexit transition deal "as soon as possible", and after a German newspaper published a report saying Mrs May had "begged for help" from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a dinner in Brussels last week.

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