Influential peers sitting in the House of Lords are pressing Prime Minister Theresa May to guarantee European Union citizens living in the UK permanent residence after Brexit.
Even though the European Commission refuses to offer similar rights to British expats in the EU, the peers want May to ease ‘uncertainty and anxiety’ for nearly 3 million Europeans in the UK.
The calls were led by Lady Helena Kennedy, who chairs a Lords committee investigating the rights of EU and British citizens to live in other countries.
The committee believes May can garner goodwill ahead of Brexit negotiations by safeguarding the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK after Brexit, providing they can show they had a life in Britain before the referendum in June.
No announcement yet
“Make a file now with proof of your presence and supporting letters from people who’ve known you, you have taught you or who you have had business dealings with,” said Kennedy.
She added that Britain had ‘a moral obligation to do the right thing’ for European immigrants.
So far, May has declined to make a unilateral announcement about the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK after Brexit after receiving no reciprocal guarantee about around 2 million British expats living in the EU.
Most live in Spain, France, Italy and Ireland, although every EU state has a British expat community.
Meanwhile, the Cavendish Coalition of health authorities is backing Lady Kennedy’s plea to the prime minister.
The coalition represents health trusts and local authority social services who fear an exodus of EU nationals will badly disrupt the National Health Service.
Risk of staff exodus
The group reckons workers from the EU make up around 5% of hospital staff and social service carers.
“Quickly confirming the right to remain for EU nationals currently working in social care and health across the UK removes the uncertainty and anxiety for individuals and their families and mitigates the risk of staff leaving,” said a coalition spokesman.
A Downing Street spokesman explained that the prime minister wanted to do a deal with the EU over the rights of expats on both sides of the Channel.
“We would expect to be able to guarantee the rights of EU citizens here,” he said. “The only scenario in which we wouldn’t be able to do that is were that not to be a reciprocal arrangement for British citizens living in the EU.”