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BERLIN (Reuters) - Britons living in the European Union ought not to fear being sent home after Brexit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told an audience on Tuesday, saying the rights Britain granted residents from EU countries would be "largely reciprocated".
In June Britain made what Prime Minister Theresa May described as a "generous offer" to its resident EU citizens which was widely criticized as a reduction of their status.
"Now we've heard what kind of offers Britain has made the EU citizens from the 27 member states living in Britain, and they will of course continue to be largely reciprocated by us," Merkel said in a speech at a business conference in Bavaria.
Any deal would require a court to adjudicate the rights of citizens on both sides after Brexit, and the question of which court would be responsible is "one of the first really important issues" to be discussed in the exit negotiations, Merkel said.
"If there are disputes, what institution is responsible for solving these disputes?" she asked.
"Britain doesn't want the European Court of Justice, but we say it can't be just British courts." She said the question was what kind of legal institution would have to be created to resolve such disputes.
Merkel was answering an audience question from a Briton, resident in Germany for 25 years, who said he employed 25 people in his business. Merkel suggested he apply for German citizenship "to be on the safe side".
"After 25 years in Germany I don't think you need to worry that you'll be immediately shipped back to Birmingham," she concluded, to laughter and applause.
Merkel said the growing health of the euro zone economy meant there was hope of an end in sight for the European Central Bank's ultra-loose monetary policy measures.
"We're not yet back where we want to be in terms of the ECB's monetary policy," she said in a rare comment on the independent central bank.
"The good news is that all euro zone member states are growing again."
Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Michelle Martin; editing by Andrew Roche