Campaigners for the rights of Britons living in the EU were given a boost recently when the UK's Brexit Minister Steve Barclay wrote a letter to the EU to push for the citizens' rights part of the Brexit deal to be ring-fenced.
That would mean the rights of Britons in the EU and European citizens in the UK would be protected – or at least those agreed in Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement – even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
But the EU's Brexit negotiator has once again poured cold water on the idea in a written reply to Barclay.
Michel Barnier insists that the Brexit deal is the best and perhaps only multilateral agreement that could protect citizens' rights and must be agreed as a whole package.
Below is an extract from the letter published June 24th.
Barnier says: “There is no other way to achieve all the benefits that the Withdrawal Agreement provides.”
Barnier said that if the Withdrawal Agreement is not signed – and at this point it looks dead in the water, given that Boris Johnson is the next likely British Prime Minister – then each EU member state would take the necessary action to protect Britons.
Barnier's letter should not be read as a complete rejection of ring-fencing citizens' rights, with campaigners insisting that member states could still agree to it and the political will must come via the European Council.
Nevertheless they were left feeling let down by his response.
“We are very disappointed, quite frankly,” British in Europe's Jeremy Morgan told a Westminster Committee hearing this week.
Morgan said he felt the EU were being “unreasonable” but urged the UK to keep up the pressure.
“It is absolutely critical that any default agreement, if I can call it that, on citizens’ rights takes place before Britain’s exit.
“We would strongly encourage the British Government to keep up the pressure. We are doing so, for our part, among the nation states in the EU, and centrally in our lobbying there.”
British in Europe's Jane Golding added: “This will only move if the EU Council makes a decision, so the decision on this lies in each of the EU27.”