Brexit ‘could affect EU nationals' right to stay in UK'

A Home Office minister said that there would be 'no requirement under EU law' for residence rights to be maintained if Britain leaves the EU. Picture by Dan Kitwood, Press Association
Andrew Woodcock, Press Association

EUROPEAN Union citizens living in Britain may lose their right to stay if the UK votes for Brexit on June 23, Downing Street has indicated.

A Number 10 spokesman said it was "possible" that withdrawal from the EU would alter the rights of people who have come to the UK under existing free movement rules.

The comment came after a Home Office minister said that there would be "no requirement under EU law" for residence rights to be maintained by any settlement reached after negotiations under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets out the process for exit from the 28-nation bloc.

Any change could affect around three million nationals of other EU countries currently living in the UK, as well as 1.2 million Britons in the other 27 member-states.

In a written response to a parliamentary question, Lord Keen of Elie said the withdrawal process was "unprecedented" and there was "a great deal of uncertainty" about how Article 50 would work.

But he added: "UK citizens get the right to live and work in the other 27 member states from our membership of the EU.

"If the UK voted to leave the EU, the government would do all it could to secure a positive outcome for the country, but there would be no requirement under EU law for these rights to be maintained."

Lord Keen's comment was branded an "absurd" scare story by pro-Brexit Conservative MP Peter Bone, who told the Daily Telegraph: "Clearly any EU citizen that is legally here if we come out of the EU would absolutely have the right to remain here."

But asked whether EU nationals would face deportation following a vote to withdraw, the Downing Street spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "Clearly, we don't know what changes there would be to the rules on migration if we were to vote to leave.

"It's possible that there would be reciprocal implications if we were to change the rights of people to move.

"That would be subject to decisions in the event of a vote to leave. The government is arguing for us to remain so I can't speculate on exactly what would happen.

"But is possible that there would be changes to the rights of people who have moved under the existing free movement rules."

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