The ongoing impasse in UK-EU trade negotiations has triggered broad speculation over EU citizens’ rights on British territory after the transition period is over, a new report by The Independent suggests.
Neither Tory MP and Chairman of the European Research Group Mark Francois, nor EU negotiator Michel Barnier is going to great lengths to pretend that the early end to the current trade discussions between the sides "is anything other than a breakdown", the newspaper reported, illustrating the "poignant contrast" between the two and how "cool and logical" Barnier recently responded to Francois’s "cheeky missive from a free country".
The exchange took place as the formal deadline to request an extension to the currently deadlocked trade talks passed. Barnier pointed out that the broad agreement on the "level playing field" and fisheries was contained in the UK-EU Political Declaration that Francois had himself earlier voted for, while Francois appears not to be overly concerned about the "billet-doux" from Brussels, the report says concluding that a no-deal Brexit seems to be looming on the horizon, and the British don't appear to care.
Transportation, quarantines, job losses, and perpetual checks of those travelling between Britain and the EU appear to be the lesser of woes in their bilateral relationship, as one of the bloc's major concerns is the continuing rights and security of EU citizens living and working in Britain.
As The Independent’s earlier reports of worrisome trends in the settlement statistics have it, EU nationals are increasingly being refused the right to stay in the UK, a fact that is believed to significantly increase the risks of a new Windrush-type scandal.
When the legal deadline for talks expires next summer, thousands of EU citizens could be left stateless and eligible for forced deportation, the British newspaper wrote, adding this is something that the bloc will not tolerate and will retaliate over.
Specifically, British expats in Spain and other countries will "learn to their cost" that what was supposed to be just a bilateral trade deal is slowly turning into a kind of "cold war between the EU and the UK".
"The comic opera exchange of provocations between Francois and Barnier seems the precursor to a much more vicious and damaging war of words and of economics", the report sums up.
Similar concerns were expressed the other day during a session of the UK parliament's Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union, commonly known as the Brexit Select Committee in light of resumed talks between the two sides.
Now vulnerable UK-residing EU citizens are afraid of potentially ending up like the so-called Windrush generation, who lived in the country for many years after leaving the Caribbean for Britain following World War Two, but lacked documents to prove their legal status.
The main sticking point in connection with post-Brexit arrangements is trade, though. Since the UK was reported in early June to have indicated its readiness to reach a compromise with the EU on trade regulations and fisheries if Brussels scraps its "maximalist" demands, new reports suggest that in response, the EU’s Barnier is set to be "preparing the ground" to soften his hardline stance on post-Brexit talks.
The speculation came days after Barnier's confirmation that "significant divergences remain between the EU and UK", but promised the sides "will continue working with patience, respect, and determination".
However, the two sides currently remain at odds over the matter, with a fishery deal remaining one of the stumbling blocks. The EU seeks to retain access to British waters to freely fish there, while PM Boris Johnson has vowed that Britain will become an "independent coastal state” and have full control over its waters.