Research by independent think tank The Social Market Foundation (SMF) has revealed that 590,000 EU citizens resident in the UK, would not be eligible to stay in the country post Brexit.
If Article 50 is activated in 2017 and the UK quits the EU by 2019, this could see the equivalent of the population of Glasgow being made to leave Britain.
However, the report suggests that due to the expected prolonged timescale of Brexit, it is likely that all EU nationals that came to Britain before 2014, will actually be eligible for permanent residency when Brexit finally happens.
The think tank believes that in reality it would be unlikely that these people wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the UK, because it would be difficult for the Government to make changes to the existing criteria for permanent residency before the country exits the EU.
SMF Director, Emran Mian, said: “Our analysis suggests that, while the majority have or will acquire permanent residence, the right to remain in the UK of almost 600,000 people may be at risk if the UK leaves the EU in 2019.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has come under increased pressure to deliver a “hard Brexit” resulting in EU citizens no longer having the automatic entitlement to come to Britain. She recently told 800,000 Polish people resident in the country that she “wants and expects” them to continue to stay in the UK post-Brexit.
Mr Mian said: “These are the first steps in providing greater clarity on the negotiations to come with these countries and the EU as a whole.
“The Government should now provide its own analysis and articulate a plan for starting discussions. Until it does, EU residents living in the UK, the businesses which employ them and the communities in which they live, are subject to uncertainty which will become more worrying as time goes on. ”
There are around 3.6 million EU citizens currently living in the UK. By the time Britain leaves the EU, 80 per cent would have been here for five years or more, so would have the right to remain in the country.