Any deal that the Government strikes over Brexit could be scuppered by the EU, according to reports.
The European parliament is said to be prepared to veto any Brexit deal that prevents EU citizens who move to the UK during the Article 50 negotiations period from having the same rights as those already living in Britain.
According to the Guardian, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and MEPs are concerned by reports that the British government wants 29 March – when Article 50 is triggered – to be the “cut-off date” for the free movement of people.
A five-page resolution was reportedly amended to rule out any “degradation” of the rights of EU nationals arriving in the UK over the next two years.
The leader of the socialist bloc in the European parliament, Gianni Pittella, confirmed that MEPs would not accept discrimination between EU citizens.
He said: “We have heard that Theresa May is considering a cut-off date as the notification date.
“We completely disagree on this and we believe that the British citizens and those from the other 27 states are EU citizens until the day of the divorce.
“During this period the UK is a member state with full rights and obligations.
“It cannot be right that someone signing a work contract in the UK on Tuesday has more rights than someone signing a contract on Thursday.”
Pitella added: “We will not allow Theresa May to deliver a hard Brexit for EU citizens.
“If we don’t insist on the rights of workers in the UK, then I am afraid the UK’s health service will collapse, given the number of EU nationals who are working as nurses. So there is a common interest here.”
Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, will deliver the letter that triggers Article 50 talks at 12.30pm on Wednesday, kicking off two years of talks before Brexit.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right European People’s party, said Brexit would be “very costly” for the UK – hinting that the EU would demand a £50bn ‘divorce settlement’ be paid.
He said: “I regret it very much. I don’t like it. But that’s the outcome of the Brexit referendum.”
Top pic: Rex