Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Theresa May to promise to safeguard the rights of European Union citizens in the UK after Brexit.
Parliamentary groups in Britain are urging her to make a unilateral declaration as a show of good will to other European governments before Brexit talks start.
May and her ministers have already rejected the idea, claiming such a deal would leave around 2 million British expats across the EU without similar certainty.
Calls from the House of Lords EU Justices Sub-Committee and the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights are demanding the rights of 2.9 million EU nationals who came to Britain before the Brexit vote in June are confirmed.
Labour MP Harriet Harman chairs the human rights committee argues EU nationals should not be deported as part of the Brexit deal.
“The government must not use human rights as a bargaining chip,” she said.
“Moreover, the government will continue to have obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as we set out in our report.
“The UK government could not deport the large numbers of EU nationals currently in the UK. In the unlikely and unwelcome event that the government sought to deport EU nationals, there could be the potential for significant, expensive and lengthy litigation, leading to considerable legal uncertainty for a prolonged period. These cases would have the potential to clog up and overwhelm the court system.”
In response, the government says Britain has a ‘long and proud history of protecting human rights’.
Negative and aggressive abuse
“The prime minister has been clear that she wants to protect the status of EU nationals already living here, and the only circumstances in which that wouldn’t be possible is if British citizens’ rights in European member states were not protected in return,” said a Whitehall spokesman.
The Lords committee made their plea after hearing evidence from EU ambassadors.
They explained French, Polish and Romanian nationals in the UK had been the targets of ‘negative and aggressive abuse”.
“Some French expats told me that before June 23 they felt like Londoners and now they feel like foreigners, which is different. Many express a sense of sadness and are waiting for answers,” French ambassador Sylvie Bermann told the Lords.