MPs’ claim that the EU is frustrating negotiations over the rights of Brits living abroad “has nothing to do with reality”, the European Council president has said in a stinging letter.
MPs and MEPs alleged the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was preventing the UK’s efforts to speak to other EU countries about giving Britons in those countries the right to continue to live and work there, in exchange for the same for EU citizens in Britain.
In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk from MP Michael Tomlinson, and signed by scores of other parliamentarians, Tomlinson said this was causing “anxiety and uncertainty”.
Tusk wrote back: “It is a very interesting argument, the only problem being that it has nothing to do with reality.”
He added the Britain should trigger the formal process of leaving the EU under Article 50 to begin any negotiations.
He said: “Wouldn’t you agree that the only source of anxiety and uncertainty is rather the decision on Brexit?
“And that the only way to dispel the fears and doubts of all the citizens concerned, is the quickest possible start of the negotiations based on Art. 50 of the Treaty?”
Before Tusk’s response, MP Michael Tomlinson, who signed the letter to Tusk, said it was meant to get Tusk to “liberate Theresa May to achieve what is in all of our national interests”.
“People are not bargaining chips. Human beings are not card to be trade ‘tit for tat’ in a political playground,” Tomlinson wrote
Tusk said the EU has been ready to begin negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU since the day after the June Brexit referendum.
He continued: “Just like you, I would like to avoid a situation where citizens become ‘bargaining chips’ in the negotiation process.
“In order for this not to happen, we will need precise and comprehensive solutions, which, other than nice-sounding expressions, will provide genuine guarantees of security.”
While the EU has appointed a chief negotiator, it has stuck to its position of insisting it will not start a Brexit negotiation untile Article 50 is triggered.
Theresa May has said this will happen by the end of March but next week the Government is going to the Supreme Court to argue MPs should not vote on this before it happens.