Answering questions in the House of Commons, Mr Davis faced demands to guarantee the rights of EU migrants currently living in the UK to remain in Britain once Brexit is completed.
The Cabinet minister reminded MPs how the Prime Minister has called for the issue to be “a priority” in Brexit negotiations and to be agreed as early as possible in the Article 50 departure process.
He also highlighted how Theresa May had already sought a reciprocal guarantee on the rights of EU nationals in Britain and UK expats living on the Continent but had been blocked by other member states.
SNP MP Stuart Donaldson asked, if the Government failed to guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK, whether ministers had estimated the impact on the UK economy and public services of the exit of EU migrants from Britain and the return of “thousands of retired British immigrants” from Europe.
Mr Davis insisted the Government does not “intend to pursue a policy which will lead to that” as he turned fire on the SNP.
He said: “There's a real issue at the heart of this but it's not helped by the slightly holier than thou stance of the SNP.”
The Brexit Secretary suggested MPs should be “reminded of the words of Nicola Sturgeon during the independence referendum in 2014” when she warned keeping an independent Scotland outside of the EU could see EU nationals lose their right to stay in Scotland.
At the time, Ms Sturgeon had warned: “We have set down a robust and common sense position.
“There are 160,000 EU nationals from other states living in Scotland, including some in the Commonwealth Games city of Glasgow.
“If Scotland was outside Europe, they would lose the right to stay here.”
David Davis reminded SNP MPs of Nicola Sturgeon's previous comments
Mr Davis also told MPs he was “not 100 per cent sure” why other EU member states had rebuffed the Prime Minister’s efforts to secure a reciprocal agreement on the rights of EU nationals in Britain and UK expats.
The Brexit Secretary said Mrs May had “tried already to get mutual agreement” and declared the Government “will continue to try and get a mutual agreement.”
Tory MP Sir Simon Burns hailed Mr Davis’s comments as “extremely welcome” amid “genuine and widespread concern on this issue”.
He asked: “What are the problems that he is encountering with a few member states that is stopping a reciprocal agreement being arrived at now?”
Mr Davis replied: “I'm not 100 per cent sure on what the actual problems are.
“In the run-in to these negotiations of course the European Commission and some member states have taken a very stern stance on no negotiation before notification and they may think this is trying to preempt that.
“That is not the intention, the intention is to act in the interest of European citizens, which after all ought to be the principle aim of the EU.”
Theresa May's 12 point Brexit plan
Mon, January 16, 2017
It's finally here!
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Continued cooperation with the EU to tackle terrorism and international crime.
There's a real issue at the heart of this but it's not helped by the slightly holier than thou stance of the SNP
After the session, former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond raised a point of order about Mr Davis’s use of Ms Sturgeon’s 2014 comments.
He said the Brexit Secretary had “used a quote from my successor as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, somehow suggesting Nicola Sturgeon wanted to deprive 160,000 European citizens of the right of residence in Scotland”.
Mr Salmond added: “By the wonders of modern technology I've traced the original quote from July 2014. In fact Ms Sturgeon was arguing exactly the opposite, that that was one of the reasons Scotland would remain as an independent country a member of the EU.”
Telling MPs “another Government minister used the same smears” last year, Mr Salmond said he was “bound to conclude some teenage scribblers” in the Brexit department are “feeding out information to hapless Government ministers who are then repeating it to the House”.
Mr Davis told Mr Salmond he would send him the full quote and said: “Of course if I'm wrong I apologise.”
Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing told Mr Salmond his gripe was “not a point of order” but added he had had the chance to “set the record straight”.
She said: “I hope that honour is satisfied on all sides.”