Michael Gove's Brexit committee says Theresa May must guarantee status of EU nationals living in UK

Prime Minister should 'act unilaterally' even without reciprocal action from Brussels, MPs say

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Theresa May should act unilaterally and guarantee the status of three million EU nationals currently living in Britain, and not wait for reciprocal reassurance from Brussels, according to the parliamentary committee for exiting the EU.

A new report jointly authored by all members of the committee, which includes prominent Leave campaigner Michael Gove, says it would be ‘unconscionable’ to make EU nationals living in Britain wait up to two years for negotiations to find out on what basis they might be allowed to stay in the UK, or even be forced to leave.

Committee chairman Hilary Benn said they had been left under a "cloud of uncertainty" and did not want to be used as "bargaining chips" in the talks.

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"EU citizens who have come to live and work here have contributed enormously to the economic and cultural life of the UK. They have worked hard, paid their taxes, integrated, raised families and put down roots," he said.

"Although the Government has said it wants EU citizens to be able to remain, this has not offered sufficient reassurance that the rights and status that they have enjoyed will be guaranteed. It should now do so."

The report further increases the pressure on Theresa May to guarantee the status of EU nationals, and not use them as a bargaining chip in the negotiations. But Brussels has thus far refused to offer a reciprocal guarantee, with EU negotiators unwilling to discuss anything until formal negotiations begin.

Sources have suggested a deal is likely to be reached within days of negotiations beginning, with Theresa May currently expected to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of exiting the European Union within the next two weeks.

The committee acknowledged the Government had said it wanted an early agreement, but that there were differences with the European Commission over the "sequencing" of the negotiations which needed to be resolved.

"It would be unconscionable for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU not to have clarity about their status for another two years," it said.

"We do not believe the electorates of Europe will thank politicians in any country if the situation is allowed to continue."