The government has sought to allay fears over the legal status of EU nationals working in the UK by issuing a statement saying they will be ‘properly protected’ following Brexit
The clarification will come as some comfort to many EU architects living in the UK, who were unsure if they would be allowed to stay after the country leaves the union.
In a joint statement the the Cabinet Office, Foreign Office and Home Office said: ’When we do leave the EU, we fully expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states, will be properly protected.’
The government also said that EU nationals who have lived ’continuously and lawfully’ in the UK for five years or more have a right to live permanently in the UK, despite the referendum result.
For EU citizens who have lived in Britain for less than five years, the government said EU nationals have the right to live in the UK in accordance with EU law and it is expected this rule will be protected after Brexit.
Carl Turner of Carl Turner Architects, said: ’The news that EU nationals living and working in the UK can remain here is right and just. For our own small practice we rely on the creative talents of staff from Latvia, Italy, France, Norway and until recently Spain, alongside our homegrown talent.’
The news follows Theresa May’s U-turn last week on protecting the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.
May had previously refused to guarantee the rights of EU citizens to live in the UK, arguing that they would be ’part of the negotiation process’ of Britain leaving the union.
However her team issued a revised statement after she came under pressure to change her stance on the issue.
It said: ‘Her position is that we will guarantee the legal status of EU nationals in Britain as long as British nationals living in EU countries have their status guaranteed too.’
Julia Feix, a director of Feix&Merlin Architects, said: ’I never believed there was ever a risk of me (or any other EU citizen living and working in the UK for that matter) being forced to leave the country as a result of some bizarre bargaining with the EU. It’s a ludicrous idea and hardly possible to implement.
’I remain optimistic that freedom of movement will not be compromised by the Brexit negotiations – in fact I strongly believe there will not even be a seat at the table without it. The UK needs to calm down, people have to stop resigning and start coming up with some great ideas of how to make it work.’
Meanwhile Leave campaigner Boris Johnson is leading a group of Tory rebels demanding the ’strongest possible reassurance’ for EU nationals in the UK, following May’s previous refusal to rule out deportations.
Johnson also supported a Labour motion in Parliament by Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary, which saw 245 MPs demand protection for European citizens.
Later today David Cameron will hand over his role to Theresa May, who will become Britain’s 76th prime minister.