The 3 million citizens currently living in the UK should stay after Brexit but the triggering of Article 50 should be the cut-off date after which new arrivals can no longer expect the same treatment. The proposals are included in the report of an independent inquiry making recommendations to the government on how to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK after the country leaves the EU.
The report calls on the government to make the public commitment that the 3 million Europeans already in the UK can stay. It says they should be offered permanent residence with the same health, social and educational rights as British citizens. As permanent residence is a status deriving from the EU membership, the government will have to pass regulations to convert it into a bespoke Indefinite Leave to Remain, the system applied to non-EU nationals. The offer should be available to those legally resident as ‘qualified persons’ on the cut-off date for a 5-year transition period, during which the costs of applications should be capped.
The committee also recommends major changes to the application process as permanent residence is onerous for the applicant and overwhelming for the Home Office. It is estimated that at the 2015 rate, it would take 150 years to process the applications of all EU nationals currently in the country.
For the two-thirds of EU nationals (up to 2 million people) who have already been in the UK for five years, the inquiry proposes a streamlined system using Local Authorities’ Nationality Checking Services. Applications should be checked using existing government records held by HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice. The remaining cases would be processed by a dedicated team at the Home Office.
“The evidence the inquiry received showed that uncertainty from valued employees about what will happen to them is tangible in workplaces across the UK. Our members can’t plan for the future or give their employees the assurances they need until government sets out its plan,” said Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors. “Ending this worry and uncertainty, both swiftly and fairly, is not only the humane thing to do. It is also essential to avoid major disruptions to workforce planning and business development if British companies are to be able to prepare to succeed in life outside the EU.”
The cut-off date was defined to limit the so-called “pull factor,” the sudden arrival of more EU citizens before the system changes. The triggering of Article 50 marks the formal start of the process to leave the European Union, which is expected to last two years.
The panel was put together by British Future, a research institute specialised in migration and identity. It considered opinions of the Leave and Remain camps, different political parties and from business and trade unions. The chair was Gisela Stuart, a German naturalized British, Labour member of parliament and former chair of the Vote Leave campaign. “We should expect reciprocal deals for Britons living in European countries, but Britain should make the first move to demonstrate good will,” she said.
Nicolas Hatton, chair of the EU citizens rights campaign group the3million, welcomed the publication of the report. Today the3million and other 10 organisations representing EU nationals in the UK and Brits in other EU countries will deliver a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May asking to unilaterally guarantee EU citizens rights before Christmas.
“This would have the double benefit of appeasing the rising anxiety of the 3 million EU citizens living here and 1.2 million British citizens in Europe, both sides rejecting being treated as bargaining chips in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations,” says the letter.
Among the many professions and backgrounds, EU nationals make up for 27% of the UK’s food and drink manufacturing workforce and 15% of the academic sector.
Photo: the3million and New Europeans action calling to support the rights of EU nationals in the UK, London 2016. By Claudia Delpero.
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