THE rights of 1.2 million Brits living in the EU and three million EU citizens in the UK must be ‘the highest priority’ in Brexit negotiations, campaigners have said.
British In Europe urged Brexit Secretary David Davis to protect expats currently living ‘in limbo’ by securing a deal on existing rights.
Landmark talks on Britain leaving the EU began on Monday, with the rights of British and EU citizens abroad high on the list of priorities.
EU negotiators have told British In Europe, a coalition which includes campaign groups in Spain, that current citizens’ rights should remain unchanged.
But with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying any deal over citizens’ rights would be null and void without an overall Brexit deal, fear and uncertainty remain high.
Jane Golding, Chair of British in Europe, said: “For the past year, Theresa May has repeatedly refused to make a unilateral offer to the three million EU citizens in the UK.
“She has said this is to protect the rights of the 1.2 million UK citizens in Europe but we have no detailed information on what that might mean.”
She added: “The EU offer gives plenty of detail and goes almost all the way to guaranteeing all our rights but everything depends on how the UK decides to respond.”
A spokesperson for the UK government’s the Department for Exiting the European Union (EU) said its ‘first aim’ was to securing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.
“We want to end the anxiety facing four million citizens,” he said. “That has always been our first aim and that is what we will do. That is why we are pushing ahead with negotiations on Monday.”
This month, Theresa May said she would make ‘a very generous offer’ on rights for three million EU citizens.
Sue Wilson from campaign group Bremain In Spain said: “We are impatient to hear exactly what Theresa May’s ‘generous offer’ for EU/UK citizens is going to look like.
“It seems unlikely that it will even come close to the generous offer that has already been outlined in detail by the EU.
“All our discussions with the EU have been fully transparent – it’s time the UK government behaved the same way.”