The Home Secretary has come under fire for threatening to deport European Union migrants already living in Britain when the UK leaves the EU.
During the EU referendum the Leave campaign said it did not want EU nationals already in the UK to be repatriated after Brexit.
But Theresa May and her team at the Home Office have now suggested that it would not be a given that EU national could remain in the UK after Article 50 negotiations conclude.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said today it would be “unwise” to guarantee EU nationals living in the UK assurances they could stay without UK nationals abroad getting the same assurances.
Mr Brokenshire was subjected to shouts of “Where's Theresa?” as he addressed the House of Commons on Monday.
Ms May has said that whether EU nationals living in Britain could stay would be a factor in Brexit negotiations.
Mr Brokenshire backed Ms May's previous remarks, saying: “It has been suggested the Government could now fully guarantee EU nationals living in the UK the right to stay.
“This would be unwise without a parallel assurance from European governments regarding British nationals living in their countries.
“Such a step might also have the unintended consequence of prompting EU immigration to the UK.”
But Labour’s Andy Burnham accused the Government of “threatening” migrants and “creating the conditions for the unwelcoming climate to continue and the rise in xenophobic and racist abuse that we have seen”.
The shadow home secretary, who has three children with his Dutch wife, said: “Any uncertainty hanging over their right to be here is tantamount to undermining family life in our country and that does not strike me as a very prime ministerial thing thing to do.
“But it is what the Home Secretary did yesterday. She said people who have an established life here would be part of negotiations with Brussels.
“For people making a huge contribution to our society to be talked of as a bargaining chip is insensitive to say the least but when she adds that quote 'nobody necessarily stays anywhere forever', it becomes quite threatening.
“I hope the minister will go back and tell the Home Secretary that my own kids would quite like their mum to stay here forever if that is OK with her."
He continued: “If the Home Secretary wants to be the person to lead us out of it she needs to have the courage to come to this House and clear up her own mess.”
Ms May is currently the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership contest.
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