Minister in embarrassing U-turn as she rules out extra checks on EU citizens under no-deal Brexit
Bosses will not have to carry out fresh checks on EU nationals working in Britain after a no-deal Brexit, a minister has confirmed - less than a week after saying the opposite.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes faced a tough grilling from MPs last week after she said new immigration controls on EU citizens could kick in if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal.
Ms Nokes told the Home Affairs Committee that employers would "have to make sure" any employees from EU countries "go through adequately-rigorous checks" to differentiate between longstanding residents entitled to be here and those who had just arrived in the UK.
Britain has promised that EU citizens who have been here for five years or more by June 2021 will be able to apply for “settled status” allowing them to stay in the country.
But Ms Nokes told MPs today: "Employers will need to check passports or ID cards as they do now for EU citizens and indeed for British citizens when making a new job offer.
"We will not be asking employers to differentiate, even if there is no deal."
The clarification came after Ms Nokes was summoned to the Commons chamber to answer an urgent question from Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper.
The senior Labour MP urged the minister to "clear up the confusion from last week" and rule out additional checks for employers.
"We’ve got the clock ticking and there is only five months left," she said. "Surely, the Home Office has got a grip of these basic questions?"
Ms Nokes insisted that the UK was still pushing to secure a deal with the EU - and promised to publish more details soon on the UK's plans for EU citizens under a no-deal.
She said: "The Prime Minister has been very clear, as indeed has the Brexit Secretary, that we will honour our commitment to EU citizens and their family members.
"And more information will be set out in due course with a specific statement on citizens from the Brexit Secretary who of course wishes to make slcear that people are incredbily important and should not simply be reliant on a technical notices."
But Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott accused Ms Nokes of causing distress to EU nationals living in the UK.
"Is the minister aware of the very real distress that this confusion over policy, which the Home Office had to correct, has caused to over 3 and a half million EU citizens resident in this country? And not just to them - but to their families, dependents and employers."
Theresa May confirmed last week that she had struck a deal with Norway which will see the rights of British and Norwegian citizens to live and work in each other's countries preserved, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Ms Nokes told MPs today that the Government was now "close" to reaching a similar agreement with Switzerland