Britain and the EU are close to agreement on reciprocal social security rights for their citizens after Brexit, two diplomatic sources said, with one
describing talks last week on an elusive trade deal as “one of the most positive so far”.
The European Union diplomats said Brussels was now gearing up to negotiate until as late as mid-November — rather than cutting talks off at the start of next month — to avoid a damaging “no-deal” scenario when Britain’s standstill transition with the bloc ends on December 31.
There was no breakthrough at last week’s negotiating round on the three most contentious issues — fishing rights, fair competition guarantees and ways to settle disputes in the future — but the prospects of an overall accord looked much brighter.
The sources spoke ahead of further talks in London starting on Wednesday with Britain, which formally left the EU in January after nearly half a century of membership.
At stake in the talks is an estimated trillion euros worth of bilateral trade. Investors and businesses are increasingly anxious about a split with no agreement to ensure the continuation of trade without tariffs or quotas.
These proposals, which included benefits for accidents at work and death grants, were a basis to “very easily agree” a joint text on social security coordination, they said.
These protections could be critical for as many as 5 million people, whether it be a Briton in retirement in southern France or a German employed in London.
However, there was no agreement on a tenth area relating to family benefits. London wants EU citizens to pay a surcharge over five years for healthcare access for family members, while the EU says it should reciprocate the open access it offers.