The EU suspects that the UK will play political games in the Brexit negotiations on the issue of citizenship due to the bloc’s perceived strong interest in the matter, a European People’s Party (EPP) official revealed. euractiv.com reports from Malta.
A high-ranking EPP source told a small group of journalists in Malta that British and EU citizens alike should not be held hostage in the ongoing political games.
Some 2.9 million EU citizens live permanently in the UK and an estimated 1.2 million UK nationals live in the other 27 member states. Currently, citizenship is not required to live permanently in another EU country but the situation may change after Brexit.
All citizens of the bloc’s current 28 members hold EU citizenship, which comes in addition to national citizenship and does not replace it.
EU citizenship bestows certain rights, including the freedom to move and reside within the EU.
In order to ensure that they are allowed to continue residing in the UK, EU citizens may go down the route of applying for UK citizenship, which allows the holding of dual citizenship.
“The citizenship issue is easy to solve and we should create certainty for these people. We are ready to do so but the British should do the same and not use it,” the sources said.
The EPP source added that there is an impression that Theresa May wants to take advantage of the issue as generally believed to be of stronger interest to the EU side, especially for countries like Poland and Romania who have a lot of nationals residing on UK soil.
“This is not the way to establish a fair and responsible relationship,” the source warned.
Regarding the negotiations, the EPP official stressed that Brussels expects “fair behavior” from London.
“For instance, the UK should not negotiate trade agreements with a third country during the negotiations as this would immediately be seen as a sign of mistrust,” the source noted.
Leave means leave
The same official stated that UK politicians should explain to the British people what they promised before the referendum and what can be delivered in reality.
“London believes that it will take its money back, its independence, and have specific agreements in fields where they are interested.”
“I think if you leave the EU that means the current regulations do not work anymore. You are leaving the area where we have a common understanding,” the source said.
Good luck with China
The official also said that countries like the UK, or to a lesser extent France, still believe they are the centre of the world and have not realised yet that in 2060 only 4% of the global population will be still European.
“The big countries have this mindset but we can only be proud of our countries and practically defend them if we work altogether […] in 2060 neither Germany nor France will be big countries.”
Citing the steel sector as an example, the source said that the EU imposed sanctions against China to protect the European steel market.
“Let me wish good luck to the UK in the event of a trade war with China without having the support of 500 million consumers,” the official said, tongue-in-cheek.
No back-up plan
According to a draft document seen by EURACTIV yesterday (29 March) before the activation of Article 50, EU leaders hoped in the future to keep the United Kingdom as a close partner.
But the document added that should the negotiations fail, the Council would make sure that the “European Union is ready for such an outcome even though we do not desire it”.
But in the text that was ultimately adopted, this sentence was removed.
“We didn’t want to provoke the UK […] it’s a lose-lose game anyway,” another EPP source stressed.
“For now, there is no plan B, we do not even know how plan A will work out […] it’s a new land, we have not experienced such a thing in the past,” the source said.