The British Prime Minister Theresa May considers herself vindicated for refusing to unilaterally guarantee EU residents’ rights in the U.K.
Addressing the House of Commons on Wednesday, Theresa May said she was “absolutely right” to negotiate on the principle of reciprocity.
And she went on to criticize the Labour opposition for wanting “to give away the guarantee to rights of EU citizens here in the UK, because as we’ve seen that would’ve left UK citizens in Europe high and dry.”
Interestingly, her criticism did not address the Scottish National Party and the Liberals that made precisely the same case for unilateral guarantees. In fact, in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Baroness Ludford said there was cross-party support for a unilateral commitment from the government.
On Wednesday, the British Prime Minister was responding to a letter by 81 “concerned” Conservative MPs. The 81 MPs took the spontaneous initiative out of frustration with the European Commission, which in their view “stands on the way” of a reciprocal agreement.
Turning the criticism against the British government on its head, their letter exclaims “people are not bargaining chips”!
The British Prime Minister’s response was informed by the statement of the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who said on Tuesday there would be no reciprocal deal on residents until Article 50 is triggered.
Mrs. May tried to break the ranks of EU member states this week, extending to her Polish counterpart a reciprocal agreement on the rights of Polish citizens in Britain. Thus far all EU member states are adamant on the principle that negotiations begin when Article 50 is triggered. There is little scope for bilateral deals with member states.