Spain’s EU secretary Jorge Toledo supports a fair reciprocal deal for all EU expats on questions like healthcare and freedom of movement.
The British Prime Minister has been keen to secure a commitment from EU member states over the rights of UK nationals currently living on the continent after Brexit.
Prime Minister May has been adamant she cannot offer a similar guarantee for EU nationals in the UK until those protections for British expats are also in place.
Her attempts to secure an early agreement on the issue were rebuffed late last year by German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council president Donald Tusk.
But with the Prime Minister his due to trigger Article 50 on the 29th March and begin the EU divorce talks. However, there now appears to be a breakthrough on the issue of expats.
Spain has backed “in principle” a common agreement for EU and UK nationals living abroad.
The country’s EU secretary Jorge Toledo, who will lead Madrid’s negotiations over Brexit, told The Times: “We are broadly in favour of retaining a reciprocal agreement on questions like healthcare and freedom of movement.
“As regards the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of UK citizens in the EU, Spain is in favour of the amplest respect of these rights in the future but the modalities and conditions will and should be a matter of negotiation.”
A total of 1.2million people born in the UK live in other EU countries, with Spain hosting the largest group of British expats at an estimated 310,000. Many live on the Mediterranean Costas.
The British Government have insisted the rights of EU nationals and British expats will be at the top of the agenda when Brexit talks begin, with Prime Minister May keen to secure an early deal on the issue.
Last week, the House of Commons scrapped a House of Lords bid to write a commitment to EU nationals into law by dumping the peers’ proposed amendment to the Article 50 Bill.