European Union leaders have rejected an offer by British Prime Minister Theresa May to do an early deal guaranteeing residency rights for British expats in Europe.
Mrs May had offered to do a preliminary deal guaranteeing reciprocal residency rights for British citizens living in Europe and European citizens living in the UK before formal Brexit negotiations begin, but EU leaders have said no.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk have publicly rejected the offer, however, saying there will be no deals at all before Brexit talks formally begin.
Speaking Tuesday night, Mrs Merkel said EU countries would “act together” on an agreed timetable, in words that are being seen as a direct rebuff to Britain.
“We talked to each other and agreed as 27 [EU governments] that it is in our interest to act together. I also made this clear in my talk with the British prime minister,” she said.
“First Article 50, then joint guidelines by the European Council, and then the related negotiations, and I have no reason to doubt that this strategy that we have agreed upon will also be followed.”
Conservative MP Michael Tomlinson also revealed 80 MPs had written to Donald Tusk and Michel Barnier, one of the EU’s chief negotiators, accusing them of
Mr Tusk responded by accusing Brexit voters of making immigrants feel anxious and fearful.
“It is a very interesting argument, the only problem being that it has nothing to do with reality,” he said.
“Would you not agree that the only source of anxiety and uncertainty is rather the decision on Brexit? And that the only way to dispel the fears and doubts of all the citizens concerned is the quickest possible start of the negotiations based on Article 50?”
Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith hit back, saying of Mr Tusk: “They are operating like the old Soviet system – it’s structured around absolute authority at the centre. They don’t care for people or democracy. It is reprehensible, bizarre and sad. I must say that I’m astonished that they would want to play games with people’s lives.”