British and European Union citizens 'must not be used as bargaining chips' in the Brexit negotiations, stressed Maltese president Joseph Muscat and that he is particularly interested in protecting 'our citizens', taken to mean those of the current EU-28 rather than just those of Malta.
“We need to find a fast solution to the issue of European citizens,” insisted Muscat that at a summit in Madrid on Monday.
Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy called his counterparts from six other member States for the Southern EU Summit at the Moncloa, to discuss how Mediterranean nations should pull together on how they can contribute better to a united Europe and the handling of Brexit.
“There must be convergence – not just between the seven of us, but the whole of the EU-27 – in the face of Brexit.
“We've decided to launch a new phase in relations between the UK and EU, but nobody can or should undermine what the European project is all about.”
This appears to be a covert reference to the UK's wanting a full free-trade agreement without free movement of people, which EU bosses and many national leaders have already warned them is not going to happen.
Rajoy has already stated on several occasions that his main concerns for Brexit negotiations are that Spaniards living in the UK, and Brits living in Spain, are protected as much as possible.
Although other politicians have been vocal on the matter, Rajoy has never mentioned the issue of Gibraltar and remains tactfully neutral – at least in public .