SPAIN has backed a common agreement for EU and UK nationals living abroad.
While not making promises, the country has said it agrees to a reciprocal deal ‘in principle’.
It is good news for UK prime minister Theresa May, who has been keen to secure a commitment from EU countries to protect the rights of Brits living on the continent after Brexit.
Speaking to the Times, Spain’s EU secretary Jorge Toledo said: “We are broadly in favour of retaining a reciprocal agreement on questions like healthcare and freedom of movement.
“As regards to the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of UK citizens in the EU, Spain is in favour of the amplest respect of these rights in the future but the modalities and conditions will and should be a matter of negotiation.”
Diplomatic sources have also hinted that Madrid may support a deal that would keep the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic, where free movement of labour and goods is guaranteed under EU rules.
May’s government has refused to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain until the rights of Brits in EU member states are also guaranteed.
The House of Commons scrapped a House of Lords bid to write a commitment to EU nationals into law by rejecting the peers’ proposed amendment to the Article 50 Bill last week.
It is thought the issue will be at the top of the agenda once Brexit talks begin.
May will be looking to secure an early deal on the topic after she triggers Article 50 on March 29.
Some 300,000 Brits are officially registered as living in Spain, although the actual figure is thought to be closer to one million.