A “reciprocal rights” deal that will affect the lives of millions of expats from both the UK and across Europe is close to being agreed after Brexit, with a majority of European Union countries having signalled that they’re ready to do a deal with the UK, according to a report.
The report, in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, notes that unidentified UK government officials have told business leaders that only a small minority of the 27 EU member states have yet to agree the outline of a reciprocal rights agreement for Britons in the EU, which would also cover EU nationals living in Britain, to take effect once the UK ultimately ceases to be an EU member country.
The official line from the UK government is that no deal has yet been struck, according to the Telegraph. However, it adds, the closeness of an informal understanding is leading to speculation that a potential deal could even be announced at a key EU summit in Brussels next month.
There are an estimated 3.3 million EU nationals living in the UK, and roughly 1.2 million Britons living in the 27 other EU member states.
According to the latest figures from the United Nations in 2015, Poland has the most EU nationals living in the UK (883,000) followed by Germany (297,000), and Romania with 229,000. EU countries with the most UK expats living there are Spain (309,000), Ireland (255,000) and France (185,000).
UK prime minister
UK prime minister Theresa May, pictured above, has thus far declined officially to say whether the rights of EU nationals in Britain will be guaranteed after Brexit, because of concerns that such a statement might damage the UK’s negotiating position.
However, she told business leaders at the CBI on Monday: “I want an early agreement on the status of UK nationals in Europe and EU nationals here, so that you and they can plan with certainty.”
As reported, Spain’s acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy moved in October to assure British expats living in his country that they would be “looked after” and that they should “keep calm” about Brexit, following a positive meeting with UK prime minister Theresa May.
Rajoy released a statement from Spain’s Palacio de la Moncloa reassuring expats that their interests would be looked after in any Brexit settlement, echoing the Telegraph’s claims.
Westminster sources said May had recently raised the issue of reciprocal rights for Britons overseas and EU nationals in this country in her talks with other leaders in recent months, the Telegraph reported.
It noted that earlier this month Lord Bridges, a minister in the UK’s Exiting the European Union department, left open the possibility that informal agreements had been struck with other EU countries.
A government source called Bridge’s comments “premature” but laid out the UK’s position as being keen to ensure a reciprocal deal for expats is prioritised soon, according to the Telegraph.
“We hope and expect to guarantee the reciprocal rights of EU and British citizens, but this is premature and wrong,” the source was quoted as saying. “No deals have been struck, formal or informal.
“The government has been clear that it wants to see this issue resolved, as long as that can be done in both directions.”
The UK’s position on Brexit was also reported by The Express as being an almost done deal. The UK prime minister and her Brexit team, it reported, are working to secure the few remaining EU member states agreements for a reciprocal rights deal for expats, which would come into force once Article 50, the formal mechanism that will set in motion the UK’s EU departure, is triggered.