The Brief: Right to stay must be first priority of Brexit talks

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.


The status of EU citizens in Britain and British workers in the EU should be resolved as soon as possible. Rather than the financial settlement, this should be the first priority of the European Commission and the UK in their future negotiations.

The bill for Brexit has hogged headlines but the divorce is already exacting a human cost. There are about 1.2 million Brits living in the EU and 2.9 million other EU citizens live in the UK.

Both groups are stuck in limbo. More than 5 million people face troubling uncertainty over their futures and the lives they have built. In a worst case scenario they could be reduced to bargaining chips

Brits work on this newsletter. All of us believe that the best way to guarantee our status in the EU is for the UK to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already in Britain.

This would be a strong signal of goodwill from the British government to the EU. The UK needs that goodwill if Brexit is to work for both sides.

The government says that guaranteeing EU citizens the right to stay will cost it “negotiating capital” in Europe. Theresa May has said she will make no promises, unless similar pledges are made by the EU-27.

A mutual agreement sealed soon, with a cut-off date for the right to stay, is the best solution. If it is offered by either side, the other should reciprocate.

The deadline will raise British fears of a flood of migration to beat the cut-off, be it from when Article 50 is triggered or when the UK leaves.

But EU immigration to Britain has already fallen and the UK will still need migrant workers after Brexit.

Officials, EU-27 diplomats, MEPs and experts held an exchange of views on this issue in Brussels recently. Reciprocal rights were discussed with Michel Barnier’s Brexit team. On Wednesday, the European Parliament will debate the rights of citizens in both camps.

In London last night, a Conservative in the House of Lords backed an amendment to the Article 50 bill that could guarantee EU nationals’ status post-Brexit. That raised hopes of a cross-party push that could force May to concede ground.

Both sides should capitalise on this momentum to deliver a deal on citizens’ legal status.

This should be after Article 50 is triggered next month but before any talks over the Brexit bill. It is too important to be left to the last moment.


US President Donald Trump said he’s in favour of the EU, which he now thinks “is wonderful”. Last month, the Brexit fan Trump branded the bloc a “vehicle for Germany”.

EU efforts to curtail illegal state aid, best illustrated by the Apple case, could soon be rendered ineffective by a planned reform of the US tax system.

Austria is taking the consortium that builds the Eurofighter to court and claiming over €1 billion in damages.

Commission President Juncker boasted that under his watch the executive has cut back on legislative tinkering, citing as proof that Brussels doesn’t regulate toilet flushes.

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall “isn’t going anywhere” after losing the Stoke by-election. Scottish government sources claim a new independence referendum will be called next year and that the country’s leaders are confident the public will vote to leave the UK this time.

Marine Le Pen was labelled “a fake feminist” by a topless heckler in Paris today. She and her fellow presidential candidates sometimes struggle with the English language.

Turkey’s president said if the parliament does not reinstate the death penalty then a referendum could be held on the issue. The return of the gallows would kill off Turkey’s EU membership hopes.

EU enlargement chief Johannes Hahn urged Montenegro’s warring political factions to show restraint. A new government might be formed next month in Macedonia.

Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi is auctioning an exclusive dinner with himself. The proceeds will go to the victims of the recent lethal earthquakes in Italy.

This is the same Berlusconi that told survivors of 2009’s deadly Aquila quake to view their time in temporary accommodation as a “camping weekend”…

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief.


The Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council will be held on Monday in Brussels. The Commission’s clean energy package will come under scrutiny from ministers for the first time. Governance of the Energy Union will be discussed over lunch.

Views are the author’s own. 

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