Revealed: How EU has been secretly plotting to block Theresa May over EU migrants for weeks

Gordon Rayner
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker - EPA

The EU has been plotting for weeks to thwart Theresa May’s plans to secure a deal for British expats in Europe and migrants in the UK, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, is reported to have been “astonished” by Mrs May’s demand that an agreement be reached by the end of next month.

But documents seen by this newspaper disclose that Mrs May made exactly the same demand to Donald Tusk, the European Council president, at a meeting three weeks earlier.

The EU had privately decided to block any deal, leaked documents show, but did not want to reveal such a move publicly.

EU leaders were accused of playing a “stupid game” and being more concerned about securing a financial deal than securing the rights of EU and British citizens.

The negotiating strategy emerged after a German newspaper reported leaked details of last week’s meeting between Mr Juncker and Mrs May. Mr Juncker is said to have left Downing Street saying he felt “10 times more sceptical” about a deal than before, and to have told Angela Merkel that the Prime Minister was “deluded”.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Theresa May

Mrs May hit back by dismissing the account as “Brussels gossip”.

In an article for the Western Morning News ahead of a visit to the West Country, she will reinforce the message that the UK needs a tough negotiator, saying: “Across the table from us sit 27 European member states who are united in their determination to do a deal that works for them. We need that same unity of purpose.”

At Mrs May’s meeting last Wednesday with Mr Juncker and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, she is said to have told the two men she saw no reason why Britain should pay a bill of up to £50 billion.

Theresa May and Donald Tusk

Mr Juncker is said to have told her “the EU is not a golf club” that members can leave at any time.

But what is said to have surprised Mr Juncker the most was Mrs May’s belief that a deal on citizens’ rights could be agreed by the end of June.

However, The Telegraph has established that Mrs May said the same thing to Mr Tusk on April 6.

Diplomatic records show that at a meeting on April 11 Piotr Serafin, chief of staff to Mr Tusk, briefed all the officials present from the EU 27 that Mrs May had made clear the UK would seek a deal on expat rights “probably as early as June”.

He added that this was probably “not feasible” but a source with direct knowledge of the meeting said: “Serafin warned everyone present that it was very important not to give the impression that the EU was blocking an early agreement on citizens’ rights.”

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Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, said: “It’s clear and obvious that Juncker briefed this story with the sole intention of making himself look good.

“This is all part of his self-aggrandisement and if nothing demonstrates that the vote last year to leave was a good decision it is this miserable and rude action of the president of the EU.”

Jean-Claude Juncker

The EU wants Mrs May to guarantee all rights of its citizens, including free healthcare, pension rights and legal rights to appeal immigration decisions.

British officials say they are willing to rapidly grant those rights via UK law.

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