Theresa May will tomorrow press European Union leaders to guarantee the rights of British expats
Days after she secured significant progress on a potential future trade deal with the EU, she will pledge to MPs that she will continue to “put people first” in ongoing Brexit talks.
Downing Street sources also made clear that the Prime Minister would not give the EU a final figure on a divorce bill before trade discussions begin.
Allies of the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the progress made in Brussels on Friday had been “positive” and that Mrs May and the negotiations should be given “space”.
However, they added that the Government should still “ramp up” preparations for the possibility of a “no deal” Brexit.
The Prime Minister will tell MPs tomorrow that people remain her “first priority” in Brexit talks.
Boris Johnson said that the progress made in Brussels on Friday had been ‘positive’
I know that EU member states also value the UK nationals living in their communities and I want them to have their rights protected
She will repeat her commitment to millions of European citizens living in the UK who make an “extraordinary contribution” to our society and say “we want them to stay”.
But she will add: “I know that EU member states also value the UK nationals living in their communities and I want them to have their rights protected.”
Leading Brexiteers have put the Prime Minister on notice, warning that she has to make significant progress on a trade agreement within six months to give business enough time to prepare for a “no deal” exit.
Government sources also rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s claim that the UK was “bluffing” about a no deal option.
Mr Macron criticised the Prime Minister’s £20billion offer to settle the Brexit bill on Friday, saying it was “not halfway there”.
Emmanuel Macron’s claim that the UK was ‘bluffing’ about a no deal option
France’s stance is thought to be holding up talks.
But in a sign that progress is being made behind the scenes Brexit Secretary David Davis will tomorrow travel to Paris for dinner with the French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Insiders said the Prime Minister made clear in her recent speech in Florence that the UK would meet its financial obligations until it leaves but any other discussions about money could not be held in isolation from trade talks.
A Government source said: “It is clearly important to move on in terms of the negotiations. But our position on a settlement remains as it was in Florence.”
At the end of last week the Prime Minister said that both sides were within touching distance of a deal on EU citizens rights.
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She also wrote an open letter to EU nationals living in the UK, saying that she had no intention of using them “as bargaining chips” and promising an easy route to staying in Britain.
Before leaving the European Council in Brussels, Theresa May said her Government was examining its commitments to the EU “line by line”.
She also talked of how there still had to be “detailed work” on the financial calculations.
Government insiders believe that this type of scrutiny is one of the ways that they can delay signing up to a final figure.
On Friday Mrs May said she was “ambitious and positive” for Britain’s negotiations with the EU but there was still “some way to go” in the talks.
However, German chancellor Angela Merkel said she was now in “absolutely no doubt” that the EU and the UK could make a success of negotiations.
Even Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said that talk of deadlock had been “exaggerated”.
Last night John Longworth, cochairman of campaign group Leave Means Leave and a former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, warned Mrs May that she had to secure real progress before Easter.
“Business needs as long as possible to prepare and the Government cannot allow trade negotiations to go on beyond March 2018 otherwise there will be no time for business to plan for when we leave in 2019, deal or no deal,” he said.
An agreement by EU leaders to begin work on potential trade talks on Friday was accompanied by demands for the UK to make concessions on the divorce bill.
Donald Tusk said that talk of deadlock had been ‘exaggerated’
Mr Longworth added: “A trade deal is only worth so much and we must not overpay. It would be better to move to WTO rules rather than allow the EU to squeeze us until the pips squeak. This is taxpayers’ money.”
Senior Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin also warned the Prime Minister she should not sign up to a deal at any price.
But pro-Remain Tory MP Anna Soubry said it would be better for the UK not to leave at all rather than leave with no agreement.
Lord O’Donnell, former head of the Civil Service, claimed banks would move abroad if there was no deal.