No 10 refuses to backtrack on possibility of deporting EU nationals after Brexit
Downing St has doubled down on the suggestion that some three million EU nationals already living in the UK could face deportation if the UK votes for Brexit.
After the Home Office last week refused to rule out deportations, No 10 said this morning there could be “changes to the rights of people” who had come to the UK under existing free movement rules.
The Government was last week asked to issue an “unequivocal guarantee” to EU migrants already in the UK after a Home Office spokesman suggested they could be made to leave in the event of Brexit.
Answering a question from PoliticsHome, the Prime Minister’s spokesman left open the possibility of EU nationals having to leave this country if the UK leaves the bloc.
“It's possible there would be changes to the rights of people who have moved under the existing free movement rules,” the spokesman said.
“Clearly we don't know what changes there would be to migration rules if we were to vote to leave. It's possible that there would be reciprocal implications if we were to change the rights of people to move…
“That is something that will be subject to decisions in the event of a vote to leave.”
The issue emerged in an answer to a Parliamentary Question tabled by crossbench peer Viscount Waverly and picked up by PoliticsHome.
He asked whether EU citizens already living in the UK would be “entitled automatically to remain” and if the Government had plans to fight legal challenges to remove them if not.
Answering last week, Home Office spokesman Lord Keen said the withdrawal process was “unprecedented,” as laid out by a Government White Paper on Brexit.
“No country has ever used Article 50 [of the Lisbon Treaty on withdrawal] – it is untested,” he added.
“There is a great deal of uncertainty about how it would work.”
A Home Office spokesperson confirmed to PoliticsHome: "The answer given is our position on this. It speaks for itself and we have nothing further to add."
Vote Leave told PoliticsHome: "The only people even suggesting deportations of existing workers is the In camp trying to whip up a climate of fear.
"This is deeply irresponsible. Pro-EU campaigners should be ashamed."
Tory MP and Vote Leave campaigner Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was "really grubby politics" to worry people who had established "a legitimate right to be here".
"It would be straightforwardly immortal to deport people who have come here legally and who have established their lives here," he told PoliticsHome.
"I don’t believe any government would do that and even to hint at it is dishonourable."
Mr Rees-Mogg called on the Government to give EU citizens an "unequivocal guarantee" they would be allowed to remain in the case of Brexit.
Tory MPs and Leave campaigners Peter Bone and Philip Davies respectively told PoliticsHome the Government’s position was “desperate” and “ludicrous”.