David Davis admits the UK's residency application process for EU nationals can't handle Brexit

David DavisJack Taylor/Getty ImagesShadow Brexit secretary David Davis

LONDON — Brexit secretary David Davis admitted on Thursday that the UK’s 85-page application process for permanent residency was “not designed to deal with” the 3 million EU nationals living in the country.

Davis and cabinet colleagues have consistently refused to guarantee EU nationals’ right to remain as permanent residents in the UK after Brexit, which has led to a reported flood of applications from residents worried about their future.

Davis, who was challenged on the issue by shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer in the House of Commons, said: “The system there now is not designed to deal with 3 million [EU nationals]. That has been made plain. In fact, if [Starmer] goes on the Home Office website, he will see that it says not to make an application now — there is no need to.”

It was reported on Tuesday that the Home Office is using its website and an email alerts system to try and avoid a rush of applications from EU nationals ahead of Brexit, who must go through a lengthy and complicated 85-page application process to apply for permanent residency.

Starmer said: “The Home Office is now saying, “Don’t apply.” Is that the Government’s official position for EU nationals — “Don’t apply for permanent residency”? Is that how they will deal with that anxiety?”

Davis replied: “For the next two years, irrespective of anything that the government do, all the existing rights and privileges continue to apply. There will be no change in that respect.”

The question of what happens after two years has yet to be resolved.

Prime Minister Theresa 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, but says she hopes to resolve the issue at an “early stage” of negotiations.

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