U.K. citizens who voted to leave the EU during the Brexit referendum, did so on the promise by many Leave campaigners that leaving the EU would lead to a vast reduction in immigration and migrants entering the U.K. Now the decision to leave the EU has unleashed a series of questions and uncertainties, one being the status of immigrants already in the U.K.
Immigration will be a significant focus for Theresa May, the new U.K. Prime Minister, and her Brexit Secretary, David Davis. Davis is in charge of managing the negotiations over the country’s withdrawal from the EU. On Sunday, Davis reported that while most EU citizens who are currently living in Great Britain will be permitted to stay, there are some that might have to leave.
“I want to see a generous settlement for the people here already. They didn’t seek this circumstance – we did,” Davis said. He added that if authorities noticed a surge of individuals immigrating prior to the U.K. fully withdrawing from the EU, a cut-off date will most likely be imposed by the government.
“We may have to say that the right to indefinite leave to remain protection only applies before a certain date,” Davis said in a separate interview. He then followed with “If we make a very generous settlement as I’d like to do, then people are going to say, ‘Oh but then that’ll attract lots more people in because they want to beat the deadline’, and so what I’ve said is, let’s deal with that issue when we come to it. One way of dealing with it could be saying ‘OK, only people who arrived before a certain date get this protection’ – there are other ways too. But we’ve got to do it within the law as it stands because at that point we’ll still be within the European Union.”
There have been requests by both Leave and Remain campaigners to secure the rights of EU citizens and nationals living in the U.K.
While the U.K. will not be officially out of the EU for another two years, Prime Minister May has been criticized for her unwillingness to guarantee the right of EU nationals to remain in the U.K. Ministers within her administration have claimed that it would be “unwise” to guarantee the right to remain without assurance that Britons living in other EU nations would receive a reciprocal guarantee.