Theresa May must end the “ghastly uncertainty” for EU citizens and offer them permanent residence, a group representing both Leave and Remain has urged.
The thinktank British Future commissioned an inquiry with a panel representing both sides of the Brexit debate, multiple political parties, business leaders and trade unions.
The inquiry also recommended an overhaul of the permanent residence application process. At the 2015 rate of processing, it calculates it would take 150 years to process all 2.8m EU nationals in the UK.
Gisela Stuart, Labour MP and the inquiry’s chair, said: “Britain should make clear at the start of the Brexit negotiations that EU citizens already here before that date can stay.
“This would send a clear signal about the kind of country the UK will be after Brexit and the relationship we want with Europe.
“We should expect reciprocal deals for Britons living in European countries, but Britain should make the first move to demonstrate good will.”
More than eight in ten Brits – and three-quarters of Leave voters – support letting existing EU migrants stay, according to ICM research for British Future.
The research comes as the pressure group the3million representing EU citizens hands a letter into Downing Street urging the Prime Minister not to treat them as “bargaining chips”.
British Future instead has suggested EU citizens can be offered permanent residency status faster through using existing paperwork and data held by local authorities, HM Revenue and Customs, and government departments.
For the two-thirds of EU nationals (up to 2m people) who have already been in the UK for five years, the Inquiry proposes a streamlined system using Local Authorities’ Nationality Checking Services, who already help people with the paperwork for citizenship applications.
It suggests checking these applications more efficiently using existing Government records held by HMRC, the DWP and the Ministry of Justice. The remaining cases would be processed by a dedicated team at the Home Office.
The TUC’s head of EU and International Relations Owen Tudor, who also sat on the inquiry, said: “The Prime Minister should make the first move to unblock this ghastly uncertainty. It is morally right and pragmatically sensible.”