It’s in everyone’s interests for the UK to get the best Brexit deal possible

One year on from the Brexit vote and the talks between the UK and our European neighbours have finally begun.

Already, this weakened Tory government is on the back foot.

They had previously boasted that the “fight of the summer” would be the issue of whether negotiations could start straight away on a new UK-EU trade deal – as the Tories had said they wanted – or whether that issue would have to wait until other issues such as citizens’ rights were sorted out, as Brussels had insisted must happen first.

But, far from making it the big fight they promised, the Conservatives have simply rolled over and accepted that trade talks will have to wait.

The fact that Theresa May’s team caved so easily has perhaps not been noticed as much as it should – but it has surely set the tone for everything that will now follow.

And it simply reflects the fact that the Tories, now in a minority position at Westminster, know they are in no position to throw their weight around in Brussels – far less with the “strengthened hand” that Mrs May assumed the election would give her.

Maybe that new understanding of their own weakness is the explanation for the Prime Minister’s belated decision to make an offer on the status of EU citizens living in the UK.

Whatever the motivation, it is disgraceful that it has taken fully 12 months for the Tories to provide any semblance at all of assurance for the three million or so European nationals living in Britain – almost 200,000 of whom call Scotland their home.

That delay has caused needless anxiety and uncertainty for people with jobs, homes and families here, many of whom work in our vital public services and many of whom are still nervous about the future.

Now that an offer of sorts has been made, it is vital we see the exact detail of what the PM is proposing.

It is not just about the right of people here to stay – there are also issues to do with the proposed cut-off point, what the situation will be for family members of EU nationals, and how their rights are to be protected in future.

I expect other EU members will continue to take a tough line when it comes to getting guarantees for their citizens – and of course, it is not just about EU nationals living here, it is also about the rights of the millions of UK citizens living in other European countries.

More generally, I have said before I want the UK to get the best – or more realistically, the least bad – deal possible.

That is in everyone’s interests.

But I cannot pretend I believe anything other than that, whatever deal is reached, Brexit will be enormously damaging when it comes to jobs, investment and all our living standards.

And I fear that will become clearer now with every week that passes.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.