With approximately 1.2 million British nationals living in Europe and 3.3 million EU nationals living in the UK, the Prime Minister, Theresa May spoke at the outset of her premiership in July of agreeing an early side deal, separate from the Article 50 negotiations which are due to start next year, for UK citizens living in the EU and vice versa. It was hoped that the side deal would give both groups of expats the right to remain where they are currently living after the UK formally exits the EU.
This week, however, European leaders have dashed hopes for an early agreement guaranteeing this with Angela Merkel insisting there could be no side deals before Britain starts formal EU exit negotiations next year. The German Chancellor stated that she had told Prime Minister May earlier this month that no part of the Brexit agreement would be discussed until formal negotiations began.
European Council president Donald Tusk has backed this position in a brusque letter to British parliamentarians, saying that the only way to resolve the issue is for Britain to commence the Article 50 discussions.
In response today, Theresa May has said: “I think the reaction that we’ve seen shows why it was absolutely right for us not to do what the Labour Party wanted us to do, which was simply to give away the guarantee to rights of EU citizens here in the UK, because as we’ve seen that would’ve left UK citizens in Europe high and dry.”