Cross-party Exiting the European Union Committee publishes report on the rights of EU citizens
Commons committee calls on Government to guarantee rights of EU nationals in the UK
06 March 2017
The House of Commons cross-party Exiting the European Union Committee yesterday published its report on the rights of EU citizens in UK.
In the report, the Committee calls on the Government to make a unilateral decision to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.
As the Telegraph noted, the Prime Minister has so far insisted that such a decision should only be made if Brussels make the same pledge for the 1.2 million Britons currently living in other EU countries.
Hilary Benn MP, Chair of the Exiting the EU Committee, said this approach is not sufficient and EU nationals should not be used as "bargaining chips" in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations with Brussels.
"EU citizens who have come to live and work here have contributed enormously to the economic and cultural life of the UK. They have worked hard, paid their taxes, integrated, raised families and put down roots … They are understandably concerned about their right to remain, and their future rights to access education and healthcare … EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU are aware of the forthcoming negotiations, but they do not want to be used as bargaining chips. Although the Government has said it wants EU citizens to be able to remain, this has not offered sufficient reassurance that the rights and status that they have enjoyed will be guaranteed. It should now do so," Benn said.
The Committee said in its report that it would be would be unconscionable for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU not to have clarity about their status for another two years.
The report also concluded that the current process by which EU nationals can apply for permanent residence after having lived in the UK for five years is not fit for purpose.
It stated: "The current process by which EU nationals can apply for permanent residence using an 85 page form and requiring copious supporting evidence is too complex and onerous for clarifying the status of up to three million people. The Committee observes that the application process is disproportionately burdensome, and questions why it involves collection of information which goes far beyond what is required to prove residence over a 5-year period."
The Committee called on the Government, as a matter of urgency, to look to streamline the system.
The number of applications for permanent residency in the UK has doubled over the past year and is expected to carry on increasing.
Chapter 5 of the report (see here) considers the future immigration system that will be implemented once the UK exits the EU.
The report argues there could be benefit in the UK Government indicating in the negotiations that it is willing to consider preferential access for EU citizens in its new immigration policy, and warns an abrupt reduction in the number of EU workers in the UK would cause disruption in a number of sectors.