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It’s pretty astonishing that, 15 months on from last year’s referendum, the 4 million citizens of other EU countries currently working in the UK still have no clarity about their future.
These people, doing everything from toiling in fields to designing complex computer programmes, are currently in limbo, with no firm commitments from the government over whether they will be free to stay put once Britain finally leaves.
As well as taking an emotional toll on those involved, the delay in clarity is also bad for businesses, some of whom are already struggling to recruit talented migrants, fearful they won’t be around much longer and planning for a potential return to their homeland.
Chances are, they will be fine. Only the most ardent Brexiteer wants to see those already living here chucked out. And the government must recognise that betraying those who have made their homes and careers here would be both politically unpopular and economically unwise. But until it’s all confirmed for sure, the future of four millions lives is in doubt.
You know things are serious when the CBI and the TUC, the respective public embodiments of Britain’s bosses and its workers, band together to jointly condemn the government – especially in as such harsh tones as they have today.
The uncertainty is a ‘blight on the value of our nations,’ the statement says, before calling for a ‘clear guarantee of the right to remain,’ implemented regardless of whatever else should happen in the course of negotiations (see the full statement below).
It’s only a shame the two groups don’t link arms more often, for their interests – especially on Brexit – are mutually aligned more often than they might like to admit.
Here’s the CBI/TUC statement in full:
‘After 15 months of human poker, the uncertainty facing 4 million European and UK citizens has become intolerable.
‘It is a blight on the values of our nations. Millions of workers and thousands of firms are today united in their call to leaders on both sides to find an urgent solution. A clear guarantee of the right to remain for citizens in both the UK and EU27 is needed within weeks.
‘EU citizens account for 10 per cent of registered doctors and 4 per cent of registered nurses across the UK. Millions more work in the public and private sectors delivering public services and making a vital contribution to our economy.
‘They need to hear that they will be allowed to remain in the UK, whatever the eventual outcome of negotiations. Not only is this important for our economy, it is the right thing to do.
‘Once agreed, this guarantee must be implemented independently of the rest of the negotiations to avoid the risk that ‘no deal’ in March 2019 leads to uncertainty and heartache for millions of people.’