UK Moves to Guarantee EU Migrant Rights, But EU Refuses to Do Same for Brit Expats

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The European Union has rejected British overtures to adopt the portion of the struggling Brexit deal securing the rights of EU migrants in Britain and British expatriates in the European Union, in order to provide assurance to their respective citizens.

British prime minister Theresa May made an enormous number of concessions to the European Union on money, regulation, customs, and international trade, among other things, in her proposed Brexit agreement with the bloc — but, unlike most of her colleagues, held that the United Kingdom should not guarantee EU migrants’ rights in Britain without a similar commitment by the EU.

With a clean, No Deal exit from the bloc on March 29th a real but rapidly receding possibility, she recently agreed to adopt an amendment by Alberto Costa MP, who resigned as parliamentary private secretary to Scottish Secretary David Mundell in order to table it, that Britain should seek “at the earliest opportunity a joint UK-EU commitment” to implement the portion of the agreement dealing with citizens’ rights — but has been rebuffed by the European Commission.

“[T]he best way to protect the rights of these 4.5 million people concerned is through the Withdrawal Agreement,” insisted European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva.

“We will not negotiate mini deals, because negotiating such mini deals outside the withdrawal agreement would imply that the negotiations have failed,” she said.

The Withdrawal Agreement was heavily rejected by British MPs in a “meaningful vote” some months ago, with parliamentarians particularly concerned by its provisions for a “backstop” trade relationship if the two-year transition period for further negotiations which it lays out does not end in a new partnership being struck.

Britain would not be allowed to terminate this without the EU’s permission; an unacceptable state of affairs which MPs want the Prime Minister to renegotiate — but on which an intransigent EU negotiating team seems unwilling to budge.

“The [European] Commission has consistently made clear that 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,” added Andreeva — a statement rather at odds with the Commission’s refusal to countenance a reciprocal guarantee on citizens’ rights regardless of the other issues the Withdrawal Agreement was supposed to resolve.

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