Stephen Barclay has written to the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, asking him to fully consider proposals to ring-fence citizens’ rights regardless of how the UK leaves the EU.
The Brexit Secretary said joint efforts should remain focused on ensuring an agreement is reached to allow the UK to leave with a deal, but suggested officials “continue to work on how we best protect citizens’ rights in all scenarios”.
He wrote: “I believe we collectively have an opportunity to address these concerns and that we should make sustained efforts to do so, including by fully considering these proposals and the technical issues raised in your letter.
“I note that there is gathering support from Parliamentarians in the European Parliament and other Member States for so doing.”
It comes after an amendment tabled by Tory backbencher Alberto Costa to guarantee citizens’ rights was passed without opposition in the Commons earlier this year, despite Theresa May warning that the EU would not be able to strike a deal of this kind.
Mr Barclay voiced concern to Mr Barnier in March over possible restrictions on healthcare access for UK citizens living on the continent after a no-deal Brexit.
While he welcomed Brussels’ call for the 27 remaining member states to adopt a “generous” approach to British residents, he said the Government has “particular concerns in relation to healthcare arrangements” which were not covered in proposals published by the European Commission.
In his reply on March 25, Mr Barnier said he had “difficulties understanding” how Mr Costa’s amendment could be “reconciled with the vote of the House of Commons on 13 March to exclude an exit from the Union without a Withdrawal Agreement”.
He said it was “far from straightforward” to identify which provisions would need to be “carved out” as part of the ring-fencing exercise.