‘Migrant workers can stay,’ says PM

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Stay with me: PM gives EU migrants right to work in post-Brexit UK
Stay with me: PM gives EU migrants right to work in post-Brexit UK

Related tags Eu European union Uk

Pubs employing EU migrants will be allowed to maintain their contracts once the UK leaves the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed for the first time.

Finally, the PM has given unconditional confirmation, which operators can share with their staff, that current EU nationals legally working in the UK today will be allowed to stay once the UK leaves the EU.

May gave assurances in an open letter today, stating the UK Government was putting people first.

“EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay,” she wrote.

“I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.”

See the full open letter below

The letter has been warmly received by the hospitality sector, which was set to lose the most from any move preventing EU workers staying in the UK post-Brexit.

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “First and foremost, this will provide peace of mind and stability for EU workers making a valuable contribution to the UK.

“Many of our teams have been uncertain about their futures and this announcement will allow them to begin planning to remain in the UK with a clear and unambiguous offer that, if they are here when Brexit happens, then they can stay.”

I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay

– Theresa May, Prime Minister

Such a commitment was exactly what the eating and drinking our sector needed and would create a stable platform for businesses looking to invest in their team members, Nicholls added.

“The Prime Minister’s confirmation that the process of applying will remain low cost is equally important,” she said.

“It is crucial for both EU migrants and employers that we have a system in place that is easy to manage, is a notification rather than a complicated application, and is affordable.”

Immigration registration system

The move by May came just weeks after the PM confirmed an immigration registration system for EU nationals.

In a statement to Parliament on 9 October, she said: “During the [Brexit] implementation period, people will continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK; but there will be a registration system – an essential preparation for the new immigration system required to re-take control of our borders.

“And our intention is that new arrivals would be subject to new rules for EU citizens on long-term settlement.”

However, May's announcement today does not counter predicted employment challenges in the hospitality sector.

There are currently 450,000 workers from the EU in the UK’s hospitality sector, but the trade will need to recruit an additional 1.3m people by 2024​, 971,000 of those just to replace existing staff, according to recent research.

PM's open letter to migrant workers

As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the European Union – to demonstrate we are putting people first.

I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority. And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. I want to give reassurance that this issue remains a priority, that we are united on the key principles, and that the focus over the weeks to come will be delivering an agreement that works for people here in the UK, and people in the EU.

When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. Nothing could have been further from the truth. EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.

But this agreement will not only provide certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals into the system of an EU27 country – can benefit from what they’ve put in. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the EU and UK to stay together. And it will provide guarantees that the rights of those UK nationals currently living in the EU, and EU citizens currently living in the UK, will not diverge over time.

What that leaves us with is a small number of important points to finalise. That is to be expected at this point in negotiations. We are in touching distance of agreement. I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals for finalising the agreement with an open mind. And with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.

I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented. People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too.

We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way. We will keep the cost as low as possible – no more than the cost of a UK passport. The criteria applied will be simple, transparent and strictly in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement. People applying will not have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK and will no longer have to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as they currently have to under EU rules. And importantly, for any EU citizen who holds Permanent Residence under the old scheme, there will be a simple process put in place to swap their current status for UK settled status.

To keep development of the system on track, the government is also setting up a User Group that will include representatives of EU citizens in the UK, and digital, technical and legal experts. This group will meet regularly, ensuring the process is transparent and responds properly to users’ needs. And we recognise that British nationals living in the EU27 will be similarly concerned about potential changes to processes after the UK leaves the EU. We have repeatedly flagged these issues during the negotiations. And we are keen to work closely with EU member states to ensure their processes are equally streamlined.

We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK. And I know that member states value equally UK nationals living in their communities. I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.

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