Leave and Remain voters back permanent residence offer before Brexit talks
EU nationals living in Britain should be guaranteed the right to stay after Brexit and offered permanent residence with the same health, social and education rights as British citizens.
That was the conclusion of a cross-party inquiry convened by the British Futures think tank, which brought together leave and remain supporters to remove the sword of Damocles from above the head of millions of EU citizens.
The report said the UK government should offer permanent residence to the 2.8 million people from EEA+ countries who will have lived in Britain for five years before Article 50 is triggered at the end of March 2017.
EU citizens who move here after that date would be subject to whatever deal the UK agrees with the EU.
British Future noted an ICM poll that found 84 per cent of Brits support EU migrants staying in Britain after Brexit, including 77 per cent of Leave voters.
The inquiry panel was chaired by Labour MP and leave campaigner Gisela Stuart, who said:
“Britain should make clear at the start of the Brexit negotiations that EU citizens already here before that date can stay.
This would send a clear signal about the kind of country the UK will be after Brexit and the relationship we want with Europe.
We should expect reciprocal deals for Britons living in European countries, but Britain should make the first move to demonstrate good will.”
She was joined by UKIP’s Suzanne Evans, Sunder Katwala from British Future, Spectator editor and leave supporter Fraser Nelson, Owen Tudor of the Trades Union Congress (a remainer and Left Foot Forward contributor), Labour MP and remainer Kate Green, Tory MP and leaver Suella Fernandes, Seumas Nevin of the Institute of Directors, and University of Essex professor Steve Peers.
Owen Tudor said the inquiry laid out practical steps on how to guarantee the rights of EU nationals, adding:
“This shouldn’t be a matter for negotiation. The Prime Minister should make the first move to unblock this ghastly uncertainty. It is morally right and pragmatically sensible.”
The largest EEA+ country of origin in the UK is Polish (916,000), followed by Ireland (332,0004), Romania (233,000), Portugal (219,000), Italy (192,000) and Lithuania (170,0005).
Population data shows the vast majority are either in work (51 per cent), self-employed (nine per cent) or under 16 (17 per cent). Of those who are economically inactive, four per cent are students, seven per cent are retired, and five per cent are looking after family. Just three per cent are unemployed.
The report was welcomed by Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, who said the government should ‘unilaterally’ guarantee the legal status of EU nationals. He said:
“Not only would this be the right thing to do, but it would also help ensure negotiations got off to a much better start than would otherwise be the case.”
Starmer said there is a ‘mounting sense of very real injustice about this’ and Labour will continue to push the government to make sure EU nationals are not used as bargaining chips.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.