Theresa May forced to reverse her stance on ‘bargaining chips’

Construction firms welcomed the news that Theresa May has softened her stance on EU nationals living in Britain, bringing her in line with her rivals for the Tory leadership.

May had previously refused to guarantee the rights of EU nationals to stay in Britain, saying they would be “part of the negotiation” with the EU on Brexit.

She was forced to back down after even outgoing UKIP leader Nigel Farage backed the right to remain.

Her team is now saying: “Her position is that we will guarantee the legal status of EU nationals in Britain as long as British nationals living in EU countries have their status guaranteed too.”

May’s arch rivals, Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove, both back the rights of Europeans already living in Britain to stay. Leadsom famously said they “will not be bargaining chips in our negotiations”.

This prompted German-born architect and Cabe’s lead design review adviser Thomas Bender to tweet: “#IamNotABargainingChip Fish & bargaining chips. Causes severe stomach-ache.” And: “#brexit I’m wondering how many fellow EU migrants are also thinking of going back to the continent.”

The news that all three frontrunners to become the next prime minister are in broad agreement about EU nationals will come as a relief to Europeans working in Britain and to the construction sector as a whole.

John Assael, director of Assael Architects, said: “I’m very pleased to hear about [May’s change of heart].”

The practice has a small number of European-born staff including a director.

“One of our sites in west London had so many Poles working on it we had escape signs in Polish. They’re wonderful workers and the construction industry would really suffer if all the Poles left.”