As Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is set to arrive in Brussels on Tuesday, according to The Daily Telegraph, British cabinet papers indicate that the government is to take the unilaterally grant the 3.8 million EU nationals in the UK the right to stay.
As part of its preparations for a no-deal break across a wide range of sectors, EU citizens in the UK will continue to have access to the NHS and the benefits system, regardless of whether British nationals in the EU are granted reciprocal rights.
The proposal is likely to be cautiously welcomed by the many British and EU based organisations such as The3Million and New Europeans who have been campaigning for citizens rights in EU and the UK since the referendum result.
The leaked papers describes this issue as “one of the most important aspects” of the government’s no deal planning: “The Home Office plans to make an offer to existing EU residents that they can remain in the UK in a ‘no deal’ scenario, in effect unilaterally implementing the Citizens’ Rights agreement agreed with the EU in December 2017.
“The proposal is to make the offer irrespective of whether the EU reciprocates. Any package would need resolution for the reciprocal elements of the December 2017 deal.
“Making an offer is not only important to provide certainty publicly, but will enable the UK government to take the moral high ground.
“A number of other plans are also dependent on the government’s position on this issue, relying heavily on the availability of existing labour in a ‘no deal’ scenario.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the influential pro-Brexit European Research Group of Tory MPs has welcomed the move.
“EU migrants came here legally, and the UK is not the sort of country that applies retrospective legislation. They should have broadly the same rights as British citizens – no better or worse,” he told the Telegraph.
Some however, like former Brexit minister David Jones believe that this move must be matched by the EU: “It’s got to be reciprocal. We have a large number of Britons in the EU and their interests have got to be reflected. We have got to look after our own people.”
It seems likely though that if such a proposal will become part of as formal formal set of proposals, the EU would most surely return the favour but as there is no sign of an overall deal, this as with all aspects of the Brexit negotiations is still only a set of suggestions and proposals.