Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy told Theresa May he wanted “early agreement” on the issue as the pair met at an informal EU summit in Malta
Theresa May today edged closer to a key deal on guaranteeing the rights of hundreds of thousands of Brits who live in Spain. Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy told her he wanted “early agreement” on the issue as the pair met at an informal EU summit in Malta.
Mrs May jetted into the capital Valetta last night and will fly home while the 27 remaining bloc leaders discuss Brexit without her. She has repeatedly refused to guarantee the 3.2million EU nationals already in Britain can stay after March 2019.
Instead she is waiting until she has the same guarantee for 1.2million Brits living in the 27 other EU states. Last week she admitted “some” of the 27 nations do not want an early deal.
But today Downing Street said Spain, the biggest EU destination for Brits with 309,000 living there, was not one of them.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “They discussed reciprocal rights and both agreed it was an area it would be good to get an early agreement on.”
During their talks this morning, Mrs May and Mr Rajoy “agreed that it was important to think about the future relationship as well as the detailed exit arrangement, so that we can give greater certainty for people and businesses who want to live and work in each other’s countries”, No10 added.
The No10 spokesman refused to say which other EU countries were holding back on an agreement.
He said: “We’ve not gone into who is and who isn’t. What we’ve said is we are firm of the opinion that we want this issue to be one of the ones that is resolved early, and there is some broad agreement across member states but not all of them.”
Many retire to the sun-drenched Spanish costas, making Spain by far the biggest European destination for Brits living abroad according to United Nations figures from 2015.
The UN estimated 309,000 people of UK origin were living in Spain, followed by 255,000 in Ireland, 185,000 in France, 103,000 in Germany and 65,000 in Italy.
More people of UK origin are, however, in Australia (1.3million), the US (715,000), Canada (607,000) and South Africa (319,000).
The PM is meeting her European counterparts for the first time since outlining her Brexit plan in a landmark speech last month.
She also revealed her hand to the Commons, publishing yesterday’s White Paper.
No 10 said that Mr Rajoy said the PM’s speech – with its 12 negotiating priorities – had clarified many things and gave a “greater degree of certainty”.
A source added: “They both agreed it was important to have some flexibility too – and to come to a deal that suited both sides.”
Mrs May also met Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, updating the premier “on the UK’s preparations for Brexit – and reiterated our desire to have a strong partnership with the EU in future, including cooperation on trade, security and home affairs”, sources said.
She was hoping to talk to Angela Merkel later but Downing Street had not yet confirmed if the German Chancellor’s diary would match up.