The future is worryingly uncertain for well over a million UK citizens living in the EU-27 and for their friends and loved ones; and for millions of non-UK EU citizens living in the UK and for their friends and loved ones.
That uncertainty and worry is wholly down to the intransigence of the EU-27. For months the UK has repeatedly sought a reciprocal deal whereby the EU-27 guarantees the rights of UK citizens living there and correspondingly the UK guarantees the rights of EU-27 citizens living here – but so far the EU-27 has refused.
This issue rightly remains a priority for the UK government, as the Prime Minister again confirmed on 8 February (see Hansard, below). I am optimistic that it will get sorted out but, until it does, the worry for people will continue to weigh upon them
In Parliament, I voted against unilaterally extending rights to non-EU citizens without a reciprocal agreement from the EU-27. Of course, I would prefer that EU citizens resident in the UK are allowed to continue living here; and that UK citizens resident in another member state be allowed to continue living there. However, the two go hand-in-hand. So I do not think that it is wise for the UK government to tie its hands for future negotiations by announcing now that we agree on the former (EU here) because it lessens our bargaining over the latter (UK there).
The UK government’s foremost duty is to UK citizens; in this context, UK citizens living in one of the other EU member states. Currently, there is no guarantee from the EU-27 that such UK citizens will be allowed to continue to live in those states. In the absence of a guarantee, it would be foolhardy for the UK unilaterally to guarantee the rights of the EU-27’s citizens living in the UK. What is needed now are reciprocal guarantees – not a unilateral declaration by the UK government which would in effect be the UK ranking the interests of non-UK citizens above those of UK citizens.
The UK has stated its preference for a two-way guarantee. The pressure should be on the 27 now to reciprocate, not on the UK to act unilaterally to the possible detriment of its own citizens. To me, it would be morally wrong for a UK government to put protecting the rights of non-UK citizens ahead of protecting the rights of UK citizens.
Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes)(Con):
I am not alone in hearing from families long-settled here in Britain who are deeply worried that they could be separated after we leave the European Union. I know the Prime Minister will not want that to happen. Will she reassure all our constituents today that those who were born elsewhere in the European Union but settled here in the UK, married or in partnerships with British citizens will have the right to remain? 
The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend obviously raises an issue that is of concern all across this House. As she says, it is of concern to many individuals outside the House who want reassurance about their future. As I have said, I want to be able to give, and I expect to be able to give, that reassurance, but I want to see the same reassurance for UK citizens living in the EU. What I can say to her is that when I trigger article 50, I intend to make it clear that I want this to be a priority for an early stage of the negotiations, so we can address this issue and give reassurance to the people concerned.
HANSARD, 9 February 2017, Column 427-8