The future of British citizens residing in EU countries threatens to embroil #Brexit discussions, as the trading bloc threatens to slash their rights.

The chair of the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, Claude Moraes MEP, says he cannot guarantee the 1.2 million UK citizens currently living in EU countries will be in a better position than the 3 million European citizens staying in Britain.

However, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was photographed holding a briefing note suggesting many of those 3 million EU citizens in the UK could flee this country if #Theresa May follows through with a 'hard' Brexit, demonstrating how much this issue is prolonging negotiations between the British Government and the European Commission.

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Mr. Hunt was walking to a Cabinet meeting when he was pictured with the note, written in large type, in preparation for health questions to the House of Commons.

'It cannot be one rule for British citizens in the EU.'

Mr. Moraes' intervention comes after the Prime Minister made the EU an offer which would see anyone who has already lived in Britain for five years secure a new 'settled status', guaranteeing their right to stay. This same rule would apply to any EU citizen who arrives in the UK in between the date Article 50, the mechanism under the 2007 Lisbon Treaty for a nation to exit the trading bloc, was triggered, and a cut-off date yet to be decided.

Mrs May's proposals would prohibit the right of EU citizens in the UK to bring over family members. The plans would also result in them losing the protection of the European Court of Justice.

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Mr. Moraes said the European Commission will be drawing up similar plans, meaning it cannot be one rule for the 1.2 million British citizens living in EU countries and a different one for the 3 million EU citizens working in Britain.

Mr. Moraes attacked the Prime Minister for leaving UK citizens worse off. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker joined the European civil liberties committee chair in criticising Mrs May for an insufficient set of proposals, whilst Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said her offer would leave EU citizens in the UK worse off.

'The British Government is using EU citizens as bargaining chips.'

The shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, said the British Government was using EU citizens as bargaining chips, while Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the Tories' efforts to secure their rights is too little, too late.

Meanwhile, in response to an opening question from Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Mr. Hunt said he commends the work 150,000 EU citizens employed by the NHS contributed to the institution.

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But he said he fears that a 'hard' Brexit would result in many of those European workers fleeing the UK. He attacked the Liberal Democrats for ignoring the 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EU.

His aide said his warning about a 'hard' Brexit was intended to trigger a supplementary question from Mr. Carmichael. Despite this, he has become one of many Cabinet ministers who have become emboldened to scrutinise the Prime Minister's negotiating strategy since she lost her majority last month.

'Part of the health service's family.'

With recent figures showing a 96% fall in the number of European nurses applying to work for the NHS since last year's EU Referendum, there have been countless suggestions quitting the trading bloc could lead to significant staff shortages. The Health Secretary used his first speech since the general election to reassure European NHS staff that they are part of the health service's family. On Monday, he and Greg Clark issued a letter to the Financial Times saying they both want to cooperate with the EU on pharmaceutical regulation to reassure the medical industry.

Regardless of the Government's promise that they will do everything they can to secure the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, a source, who did not want to be named for privacy reasons, revealed exclusively to Blasting News that they fear a 'hard' Brexit could result in their company relocating to a European country. They also said they fear their family may have to move abroad to find work. #European Union