Boris Johnson guarantees EU citizens’ rights in UK ‘unequivocally’
Boris Johnson has pledged with “absolute certainty” that the 3.2 million EU nationals in the UK will keep their rights.
In his first Commons statement as Prime Minister, he said he would guarantee their ability to remain after Brexit.
Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement guaranteed citizens’ rights, but there would be no automatic protection in the event of a no-deal departure.
Mr Johnson’s commitment was welcomed, but there were warnings that UK citizens in Europe would still need their rights protecting in the event of a deal-less departure.
The PM praised the “diversity, the talent and the skills of our workforce” in his statement.
“I want, therefore, to repeat unequivocally our guarantee to the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us,” he said.
“I thank them for their contribution to our society and for their patience, and I can assure them that, under this Government, they will have the absolute certainty for the right to live and remain.”
The3million campaign group was cautious over the pledge on EU citizens in the UK.
“We hear warm words about EU citizens in the UK but we can only respond once the dust settles and we see detail. We also have not heard anything about our British friends in Europe,” a statement said.
“The3million looks forward to meeting with Boris Johnson and his Government to discuss his proposal as soon as possible.”
Alberto Costa, a Conservative MP who has campaigned over the issue, said it was important to enshrine the commitment in law unlike the current settlement scheme open to EU citizens.
And he said the move would help protect the rights of UK nationals living in Europe.
“We will have to see the legislation, an Act of Parliament, that underpins that pledge and genuinely delivers on a guarantee for all EU nationals,” he told the BBC.
“It’s really important for British citizens living in the EU that we protect EU nationals here.”
Downing Street was unable to give details on any new measures but said the existing settlement scheme was working well.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The settlement scheme has been successfully implemented and it was legislated for using powers in the 1971 Immigration Act.
“It’s simple to use, it’s free of charge and it is working well – over 950,000 applications have been made, of which 850,000 have already been granted their status.”
The spokesman said Mr Johnson “took office yesterday, he was giving an important and unequivocal commitment” to EU citizens.