Britain’s intention in negotiations over the post-Brexit status of European Union nationals already living in the United Kingdom is to give them very similar rights to those they enjoy now, Brexit minister David Davis said on Wednesday.
Davis said it was important to quickly agree on the future rights of EU nationals living in Britain and Britons living in other EU countries after the United Kingdom exits the bloc in 2019, because uncertainty was making those people anxious.
“It is the intention that they will have a generous settlement, pretty much exactly what they enjoy now, and our British citizens abroad will do the same,” Davis said during an interview on BBC radio.
His comment differed from what was suggested by Prime Minister Theresa May during a dinner with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, according to a report in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) on Sunday.
FAS reported that May had said she thought it would not be a problem to resolve the issue as EU citizens in Britain could simply be treated like other nationals of third countries.
Juncker reportedly responded that would be a big problem, as EU nationals currently enjoyed many special rights and it would be necessary to go over details such as health insurance.
In his BBC interview on Wednesday, Davis said Britain wanted to deal with the issue up front, and was working with EU partners on how to speed up the process.
“One is to take a very simple solution, which we have talked about. Secondly, if it has to be a treaty or something that takes time, that we would have an exchange of letters making it plain what we’re going to achieve,” he said.
“Those sorts of things we are working on, and working with all of them (EU member states), and my expectation is that we will succeed with that.”
Davis dismissed a report in the Financial Times that the EU was preparing to demand a gross figure of €100bn from Britain as its bill for quitting the bloc.
Davis also dismissed a report in The Times newspaper that the EU would let May negotiate directly only with the European Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier rather than with fellow EU leaders.
“We’re going into this negotiation not as a supplicant, but as a negotiator. There are two sides to negotiation, and the other side of the negotiation will not determine who does what,” he said.