EU migrants in the UK will serve as a “main card” during forthcoming Brexit negotiations, according to International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
The controversial MP, who previously served as defense secretary, made his comments at a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party conference, with one anonymous Tory insider reportedly telling Sky news that Fox’s choice of words was “unfortunate.”
Fox said that the UK’s approach to the status of EU nationals would be informed by how EU nations treated UK citizens.
“The Prime Minister has made it very clear – we would like to be able to give a reassurance to EU nationals in the United Kingdom, but that depends on reciprocation by other countries,” he said.
He said he hoped for “a totally open, reciprocal agreement,” wherein “UK citizens in other European countries are free and welcome to stay there as would those who have already settled in the United Kingdom.”
“But again, as the Prime Minister said, to give that away before we get into the negotiation would be to hand over one of our main cards in that negotiation and doesn’t necessarily make sense at this point.”
UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Sunday that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will formally commence Britain’s exit negotiations with the EU when invoked, is set to be triggered by the end of March 2017.
May told the BBC: “We will trigger before the end of March next year.”
The PM is preparing a Great Reform Bill aimed at rolling back 44 years of the EU’s legal supremacy. The document would transfer all existing Brussels laws onto the British parliament’s statute books.