May seeks early deal on individuals’ rights as EU leaders agree Brexit process

31 January 2017 9:56am

16 December 2016. By Simon Taylor, Matthew Holehouse and Lewis Crofts.

UK premier Theresa May asked EU leaders for an early deal on the rights of British citizens living in the rest of the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, at a meeting held in Brussels today but was met with silence.

After she left the summit, the other 27 countries discussed how they would run the Brexit talks, agreeing on a formal role for the European Parliament.

EU leaders have so far been reluctant to discuss Brexit since the June 23 referendum, allowing May only a brief presentation at a summit in October. Today, they discussed the process in her absence.

Nevertheless, before May left the meeting on Thursday evening, she gave a “very short update on the position on Brexit,” Enda Kenny, the Irish premier, told reporters.

May said she wanted an early agreement on the acquired rights of UK and EU citizens after Brexit.

She also updated leaders on the UK government’s appeal against a High Court ruling that required consultation with parliament before triggering the start of the process for the UK to leave the EU.

May said the government had “good grounds to appeal” and a decision is expected in January, Kenny said.

“There wasn’t any response to either of those comments,” the Irish premier said.

May declined to answer questions about Brexit on leaving the summit.


EU leaders also approved a plan on how to run negotiations with May’s government, ensuring member states keep a tight grip on the process.

Representatives of the European Parliament will attend meetings to prepare negotiations on the terms of the UK leaving the EU, it was agreed.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, had warned that the assembly could veto any Brexit agreement if the parliament was not involved in the talks from the outset.

Following very strong comments from Schulz at the beginning of a meeting with EU leaders in Brussels, the 27 national leaders conceded that a representative of parliament would be present at the preparatory meetings.

Schulz had said earlier in the day that it was “totally unacceptable” for the parliament to be excluded from the talks. He pointed out that the assembly would have to vote to approve the deal that emerged from negotiations on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU.

The debate among 27 leaders in May’s absence didn’t go into any detail on any possible transitional periods to ease the UK’s exit from the union and the establishment of a new trading relationship, Kenny said.

“I did make the point myself that fifty years of directives, legislation and so on would probably be very difficult to deal with inside a two-year period… It remains to be seen,” the Irish premier told reporters.

“There wasn’t any discussion about trading relationships, transition periods or extensions of time or anything like that.”

May is expected to trigger the start of Brexit negotiations in March when she sends a letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty which sets out the process for a country to leave the EU.

Once May has sent the letter, the leaders of the other 27 states will agree guidelines for the negotiations with the UK. There will be a meeting of the senior diplomatic advisers of the 27 EU leaders to prepare their approach to the Brexit negotiations.

Brexit Special Report