Angela Merkel rejects Theresa May’s advances on EU citizen ‘hostages’

The German Chancellor has rejected an approach by Theresa May’s team to try to settle early the thorny issue of the post-Brexit status of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens across the EU. Angela Merkel would not discuss the issue or indeed any other element of the Brexit deal at a recent meeting in Berlin under the EU’s mantra of “no notification, no negotiation”. The informal approach might have taken the issue of EU citizens’ status off the table as early as the December EU summit, providing certainty to hundreds of thousands of workers in the UK and across the EU.

I hope we can reach an early agreement on this issue, providing certainty for Polish citizens here and British people living in Europe.

Theresa May

But Mrs Merkel made it clear that the fate of the 1.2m Britons living in other EU countries and the 3.3m EU citizens in the UK would not be discussed until the UK Government triggers Article 50 - the formal divorce proceedings. On Monday, at a meeting with the Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo in Downing Street, the Prime Minister said she wanted an “early deal” on these rights. Ms Szydlo wrote that EU citizens should not be “hostages” in the Brexit negotiation - words aimed more at Berlin than London. Mrs May’s approach not to guarantee EU worker’s rights until reciprocity is offered, which she made clear at the start of the Conservative leadership campaign,appears to have been vindicated.