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Analysis

No deal would leave EU citizens in lurch

by Luke Lythgoe | 11.10.2017

Theresa May let the cat out of bag in her LBC interview yesterday. She doesn’t have a plan to safeguard EU citizens rights if we crash out with no deal.

This is another example of the prime minister’s terrible leadership. “No deal” – a scenario she put on the table in the House of Commons only on Monday – wouldn’t just blight the lives of those affected. It would damage the UK overall given the crucial contribution EU nationals make to our country.

Responding to Nina, an EU national who has been in the UK for 31 years, May could only say the government is “doing work on that at the moment”. “What’s your backup plan?” Nina asked. “We want you to stay,” the prime minister lamely replied.

Without guarantees from the government, no deal means an end to the rights currently enjoyed by EU citizens in the UK – rights safeguarded under EU law.

May had the chance to avoid this cliff-edge scenario by unilaterally guaranteeing rights at the start of the Brexit process. Instead, she treated them like pawns in a negotiation.

If the prime minister had done what she should have, unnecessary agony for 3 million EU citizens living here would have been avoided. The EU would probably have responded by guaranteeing the rights of the 1.2 million Brits living in the rest of Europe. What’s more, the overall Brexit talks would have begun in a spirit of goodwill rather the getting off to a bad start.

Now, 15 months later, talks have stalled over technical details: the role of the European Court of Justice; the right to family reunification. These are red lines for May’s hardline backbenchers.

EU migration has largely been a positive for the UK, a fact often lost amidst anti-immigration rhetoric. EU citizens are net contributors to the welfare system and play an important role in sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and hospitality.

A no-deal scenario that throws EU citizens’ rights up in the air will damage Britain. Talented EU nationals will quit. Those that remain may suddenly find themselves living or working illegally in the UK, something a former director general of immigration and enforcement warned about yesterday. That would mean fewer tax receipts for the government. It would also increase the chances of migrants being exploited by unscrupulous employers, undercutting wages for British workers.

May has time and again lost the chance to guarantee EU citizens’ rights. It’s not too late to do the right thing.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “No deal would leave EU citizens in lurch”

  • I have lived in U.K. for more than half a century. Desperately wanted the U.K. to stay in the EU to preserve peace and prosperity. I did not have a vote. So I am voting with my money and my feet. Investing on the mainland instead of in the UK. As for the leavers, let them eat cake.