Portugal's prime minister, António Costa, said on Thursday that the position of the UK's House of Lords on the rights of citizens of other European Union member states who are resident in the country is in line with his own government's objective of protecting the large Portuguese community there.
In comments to journalists in Brussels, on his way in to a European Council meeting, looking forward to a planned bilateral meeting with his British counterpart, Theresa May, Costa said that he hoped to hear "her point of view and what is the starting position of her negotiation" on the UK's departure from the EU. He also took the chance to welcome the 1 March vote in the UK's upper chamber in which approved a legislative amendment aimed at safeguarding EU citizens' rights.
"The House of Lords took a very clear position on the matter of protection of the rights of those already resident in the United Kingdom, which is in line with the objective that we of course have of protecting our community," Costa said.
Last week, the UK government lost a vote in the House of Lords on an amendment calling on it to present proposals to protect the rights of EU citizens already resident within three months of Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon being activated, which will set in train the process of the UK leaving the EU. Peers voted 358 to 256 for the amendment.
Despite the upset, the government is sticking to the end of March as its deadline for activate Article 50.
The result in the vote means that, after the debate on the bill in the upper chamber is concluded, it will return to the House of Commons, which will have to decide whether to accept the amendment or not, before returning the bill to the Lords.
Costa said that the question of the Portuguese community in the UK is "very important", but stressed that "the relationship with the United Kingdom transcends" that aspect greatly. He cited security and defence and other historic shared interests and approaches.
"We are aware that the United Kingdom shares with us an Atlantic dimension in which its departure from the EU will profoundly alter the balances in Europe as a whole, and so it is necessary for us also to find here a new relationship with the United Kingdom that might help us to bolster this Atlantic dimension," he said.