Brexit: May says Tusk letter shows EU expats delay “right”
Britons living around Europe would have been left “high and dry” if the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK had been guaranteed, the PM has said.
Theresa May said EU leaders” remarks showed it was “absolutely right” for the UK not to have acted unilaterally.
EU Council president Donald Tusk has said there can be no “reciprocal” deal on expats until formal talks begin.
He was responding to criticism from Tory politicians who accused EU figures of “standing in the way” of a deal.
Replying to a question in the Commons from Conservative MP Peter Lilley, Mrs May said she hoped the issue would be examined early during the Brexit negotiations, which cannot begin until she has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The PM said it was “right” to give reassurance to both sets of citizens, adding: “But I think the reaction that we”ve seen shows why it was absolutely right for us not to do what the Labour Party wanted us to do, which was simply to give away the guarantee to rights of EU citizens here in the UK, because as we”ve seen that would”ve left UK citizens in Europe high and dry.”
The letter from 81 mostly Conservative MPs and peers called for a speedy resolution and pointed the finger at EU Brexit negotiators for holding up a deal.
In response, Mr Tusk said said their criticism had “nothing to do with reality”.
He said the vote for Brexit – not the stance taken by EU negotiators – had created “anxiety and uncertainty”, saying the best way to “dispel the fears and doubts of all the citizens concerned” was to trigger Article 50, which begins a two-year negotiation process.
There have been calls from some MPs for the government to offer a unilateral guarantee to EU nationals in the UK, but ministers have said this must form part of a deal with other member states for Britons living overseas.