The European Union will not match the UK government’s decision to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, and a Commission spokesperson insisted on Thursday (28 February) that the bloc would not negotiate ‘mini deals’.
On Wednesday, UK MPs voted to guarantee the rights of EU nationals after 29 March, when the UK is due to leave the EU, unanimously supporting an amendment by former ministerial aide Alberto Costa.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told MPs that the government would ask the EU to keep the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement if the whole of the agreement falls in the event of no deal.
However, Prime Minister Theresa May warned MPs on Tuesday that the EU did not have the “legal authority” to separate the issue of citizens’ rights from the overall Brexit deal.
Speaking on Thursday, Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva told reporters that while the EU executive welcomed the move by the UK, it would not carve out citizens’ rights from the overall Withdrawal Agreement with the UK.
“The Commission has consistently made clear that the rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom and UK nationals in the EU are our top priority. They should not pay the price for Brexit and the Commission has called on member states to take a generous approach to the UK nationals that are already resident in their territory,” said Andreeva.
“The best way to protect the rights of these 4.5 million people concerned is through the Withdrawal Agreement,” Andreeva said, adding that “we will not negotiate ‘mini deals’ because this would imply that the negotiations have failed”.
Despite Andreeva’s remarks, the Commission has made its own plans to safeguard citizens’ rights in the event of ‘no deal’.
In January, the Commission released contingency plans to guarantee that students currently participating in the Erasmus programme on both sides of the channel will be able to complete their studies, alongside safeguards for social security rights for EU citizens living in the UK and the completion of the 2019 budgetary plan.
The UK has until mid-April to confirm that it will pay its contribution to the 2019 EU budget.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]