LONDON — Business groups have hit back at new plans for EU nationals living in the UK post-Brexit announced on Monday, criticising the government for a “lack of clarity” in their plans.
Several of the country’s best-known and best-respected lobby groups have criticised the plans for their lack of clarification on numerous issues, while some have suggested that the proposed system will force employers to do far larger amounts of administration and paperwork once they’re implemented.
“Until there is clarity, small businesses and their EU employees will continue to face considerable worry and anxiety over their ability to stay and work in the UK,” Mike Cherry, policy director at the Federation of Small Businesses said in a statement released after the announcement.
“We need the government to send a clear signal of their position on the specified cut-off date,” adding that EU-based entrepreneurs could be “turned off” from staying in the country because of the plans.
On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that all European citizens living in the UK before the date that Britain leaves will be able to apply for “settled status” to remain living and working here, as long as British citizens living in the EU are granted the same rights.
Under the plans, EU citizens must have been living continuously in the UK for at least five years before an as-yet-to-be specified cut-0ff date in order to qualify. This date will be subject to negotiation, however the prime minister said it “shouldn’t be earlier than 29 March 2017 or later than the date the UK leaves the EU.”
EU citizens will be offered rights “almost equivalent to British citizens,” in terms of employment and pensions, ministers have said. This will not include voting rights and will not necessarily extend to those convicted of crimes in the UK.
The plans however, left several questions unanswered, with the EEF — which represents the manufacturing sector — saying in a statement: “The frustrations felt by many employers will not be eased with the publication of the Government’s migration offer.”
“Employers need clarity and certainty well before the date we officially leave the EU and face a tipping point after which it becomes almost impossible to retain or attract employees from Europe.”
The British Chamber of Commerce welcomed the deal a little before May’s official announcement in the Commons, but said that it should have been made sooner, saying: “Concerned business communities across the UK will welcome the Prime Minister’s proposal to guarantee the rights of EU citizens, but with a tinge of regret and frustration.
“This offer could have been made loudly and clearly nearly a year ago in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, which would have spared individuals, communities and employers significant angst and worry.”