Businesses and trade unions are calling on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to safeguard the right of EU citizens to remain and work in the country after Brexit, before negotiations on Britain’s departure from the EU begin.
The BBC reports that the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have urged May to unilaterally guarantee the right of EU workers to stay, without making that conditional upon the EU offering similar security for U.K. citizens.
“We call upon you to demonstrate leadership by providing EU citizens in the UK with the reassurance we would expect to be shown to U.K. citizens across the Continent — not by making one conditional upon the other,” the joint statement said.
Research has suggested that some 75% of EU workers in the U.K. could be made ineligible for visas after Brexit, according to the Financial Times.
BBC reported that BCC director-general Adam Marshall suggested the government could give businesses an early Christmas present by cementing an agreement now, as anxiety grows among businesses that employ a large number of EU citizens.
“Business communities across the UK are deeply frustrated that ministers have declined to guarantee the residence rights of their EU employees and colleagues. Some firms are already losing key members of staff due to this avoidable uncertainty,” TUC director-general Frances O’Grady said.
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Downing street has reportedly said that May intends to protect the status of EU nationals.
According to official figures cited by the BBC, about 2.1 million people from the EU were working in the U.K. as of earlier this year.