EU nationals living in the UK are set to be given the right to remain even in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Cabinet papers leaked to The Daily Telegraph show ministers plan to take the “moral high ground” in a move which will bring much needed stability to the lives of almost 3.8 million EU nationals currently living in the UK.
Under the deal EU citizens in the UK would be able to continue using the NHS, and the welfare system regardless of whether British nationals living in the EU are granted similar rights. They will also still be able to bring spouses and close family members from the EU to live with them in the UK.
The leaked paper reads: “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.”
The move is said to reflect concerns over potential labour shortages in key sectors such as health, social care and construction once Britain is outside the EU. Ministers and campaigners have repeatedly highlighted this issue.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “Skills shortages are skyrocketing, and it begs the question: who will build the new homes and infrastructure projects the Government is crying out for?
“Without skilled labour from the EU, the skills shortages we face would be considerably worse, and it is not in anyone’s best interest to pull the rug out from under the sector by introducing an inflexible and unresponsive immigration system.”
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will travel to Brussels on Tuesday for further talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
Raab has said while he believed a deal was still “by far the most likely outcome”, a responsible government needs to set out the steps it will take to mitigate the risks of a no deal.