Theresa May has faced calls from within her own party to secure rights of EU nations in the UK
Nine Tory MPs quizzed the Prime Minister during a Parliamentary debate yesterday as the House of Commons gears up for an important vote on legislation which will allow the Government to trigger Article 50.
An amendment to the current bill, proposed by former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman which has the backing of the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, would formally guarantee the rights of EU citizens currently living in Britain.
Any such vote would likely need Tory MPs to vote in favour of the amendment to overturn the Government’s wafer thin working majority of 16.
The Government is thought to be opposed to unilaterally agreeing to guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens currently living in Britain without securing the guarantee of British expats living in the other 27 EU nationals.
Mrs May had attempted to secure an early deal with EU leaders on securing “reciprocal rights” but was slapped down by Angela Merkel who claimed a deal would not be agreed before formal EU talks had begun.
When asked by Tory MP Edward Leigh which nations opposed a “reciprocal rights” arrangement, the Prime Minister claimed EU leaders simply did not want to agree to such a deal before formally EU negotiations start.
The former Home Secretary said she had “every expectation” that a “reciprocal” agreement could be struck “at an early stage” when asked by fellow Tory MP Heidi Allen if she would unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU residents living in Britain.
The Prime Minister could come under pressure from other Brussels bloc nations, her own party and the opposition if an early deal for EU citizens is not agreed quickly as their status may remain uncertain until 2019.
A Downing Street spokesman told Politico that Mrs May and the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, had decided to reach an agreement “early on in the negotiations”.
Mrs May told business leaders last year that she wanted to come to an early arrangement.
She told business leaders in November: “I want an early agreement on the status of UK nationals in Europe and EU nationals here, so that you and they can plan with certainty.”