Government “fully expects” legal status of EU nationals in UK to be “properly protected” post-Brexit

There has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK due to Brexit, the government has announced.

In a move which will help reassure contractors, consultants and architects, a joint statement from the Cabinet Office, Foreign Office and Home Office said: “When we do leave the EU, we fully expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states, will be properly protected.”

The government added that it “recognises and values the important contribution made by EU and other non-UK citizens who work, study and live in the UK.”

Theresa May - expected to become prime minister on Wednesday as Building went to press - had already softened her stance on EU nationals living in Britain during the final days of her successful leadership campaign.

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.

But her team said in a statement last week: “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.”

The government said EU nationals who have lived “continuously and lawfully” in the UK for at least five years automatically have a permanent right to live in the country, despite the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

It added there is no requirement to register for documentation to confirm this status, while EU nationals who have lived in the UK for at least six years are eligible to apply for UK citizenship if they wish to do so.

For those who’ve lived in the UK for less than five years, EU nationals continue to have a right to live in the UK in accordance with EU law, which the government said it expects to be protected once the UK does leave the EU.

It also said EU nationals can only be removed from the UK if they “pose a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to the public, if they are not lawfully resident or are abusing their free movement rights.”