Theresa May has told European Union leaders that she wants to reach an agreement on the status of Britons living in the EU early on in Brexit negotiations – as well as the status of European citizens currently based in the UK.
Following a European Council meeting, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told reporters it was one of two specific issues raised during a “very short update” provided by Mrs May in Brussels.
He added that his British counterpart had also expressed confidence about the recent Supreme Court case appealing a High Court judgment that she could not trigger Article 50, the formal process for leaving the EU, without the support of Parliament.
Mr Kenny claimed the Prime Minister told EU leaders that the UK Government had “good grounds to appeal it on” and now awaited the Supreme Court’s decision in January.
The Taoiseach’s remarks came as Sky sources claimed the European Commission’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is working on the basis that the UK will have to pay a Brexit settlement fee of up to £50bn for outstanding liabilities.
Although it appears Mrs May wants to discuss migration issues first, an EU government minister told Sky News that the bill worth “tens of billions of euros” would likelier be one of “the first things coming up” when talks commence.
The so-called “exit fee” is said to relate to payments to the existing budget that the UK has already voted for, and primarily involves the pensions of British citizens who work for the EU.
“We would expect that the UK would honour its commitments,” the Czech Republic’s Europe minister, Tomas Prouza, said.
Although Mrs May ducked questions about this potential bill, Downing Street has insisted the Brexit process can be completed within two years.
It follows the UK ambassador to the EU’s private warning that it could take a decade for the UK’s exit to be finalised, and even then, it may fail to be ratified by member states.
Number 10 said Sir Ivan Rogers was passing on the views of other EU nations, and was simply “representing what others are saying to him”.