LONDON — Deporting millions of EU nationals after Brexit would be unworkable and “extremely undesirable,” according to a parliamentary report released on Monday.
The report, prepared by the joint committee on human rights (JHCR) and led by Labour MP Harriet Harman, says that “the government must not use human rights as a bargaining chip,” and adds that attempting to deport nationals could lead to months of “significant, expensive and lengthy litigation.”
It highlights the continued uncertainty faced by the 2.9 million EU nationals living in the UK, as well as 1.2 million UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May and senior cabinet colleagues have consistently refused to guarantee EU nationals’ right to remain after Brexit. Trade minister Liam Fox described EU nationals in the UK as one of the the government’s “main bargaining chips” in upcoming negotiations, and May has argued that the UK would be left “high and dry” in negotiations by guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals without receiving similar assurances for UK nationals living in the EU.
The report argues that because the government will roll over all EU law into UK law when it leaves the union, it will have human rights obligations, including Article 8 of the European convention on human rights, which states that “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”
It warns that the government would not have the legal right to deport an EU citizen solely on the ground that they had been the resident in the UK for a fixed period of time. Other factors, including family connections and specific residence rights of children would also be relevant.
Harman said: “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 of time.
“These cases would have the potential to clog up and overwhelm the court system.”
The committee, which is composed of a cross-party group of MPs and peers, recommends that the government resolves the issue of residence rights “urgently,” by arranging a preliminary agreement before it embarks on the full set of Brexit negotiations. That could be done “by providing an undertaking to the effect that all of those legally resident at a reasonable cut-off date would be guaranteed permanent residence rights.”
Harman concluded: “Any dilution of standards would give rise to a potential imbalance between UK standards and EU standards which would be extremely undesirable.
“If the UK enters into any new agreements, this is an opportunity to raise standards.”
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