European Union nationals living in the UK before the formal Brexit process is triggered should be allowed to remain in the country permanently, an expert panel has recommended.
UK PM Theresa May’s refusal to agree the status of the nearly three million Europeans in the country unless the rights of Britons living on the continent are guaranteed is “morally wrong”, according to an inquiry run by think tank British Future.
It called for the UK to “make the first move” to demonstrate “goodwill” as it embarks on its divorce negotiations.
The panel, which included a cross-party group of MPs, said all 2.8 million EU nationals should be eligible for permanent residence with the same health, social and education rights as British citizens.
If found that setting the date that Article 50 is triggered as the cut-off point would be fair and legally watertight but would not lead to a surge in migration from across the bloc and European Economic Area nations.
Just 3% of European citizens living in Britain are unemployed, with 51% classed as employees, 9% self-employed, 4% students and 7% retired while 17% are children, according to the report.
More than a quarter of the food and drink manufacturing workforce and about 15% of academics are from other EU countries, it added. Around 1.2 million British nationals live in other EU countries.
Owen Tudor, TUC head of EU and international relations, said: “EU nationals working in the UK and making a contribution are anxious about what happens to them when Britain leaves the EU. They need to know about their future rights to live and work here.
“Everyone agrees this needs to be resolved quickly and fairly. Our inquiry now has practical recommendations for how to do it.
“This shouldn’t be a matter for negotiation. The UK Prime Minister should make the first move to unblock this ghastly uncertainty. It is morally right and pragmatically sensible.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “The Prime Minster and other ministers have been absolutely clear that they want to protect the status of EU nationals already living here, and the only circumstances in which that wouldn’t be possible is if British citizens’ rights in European member states were not protected in return.”