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It’s time to make the right decision on EU citizens in the UK

Jasmine Whitbread, CEO, London First

@JasmineLdnFirst

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In the months since the European referendum, our members have consistently told us that access to talented and skilled people is their number one concern in relation to Brexit negotiations. It is this issue more than any other that should be central to the reshaping of our relationship with Europe and the rest of the world.

This is why, as the Article 50 Bill is debated in the Commons,  I have called on MPs to support the amendment that guarantees the rights of EU citizens already living and working in this country.

Businesses and their staff need certainty on this as a matter of urgency: In London alone, almost 13% of the workforce is EU-born. But, worryingly, if existing visa rules were applied to the EU workers, only one in five would be entitled to stay here. At a national level that figure is quite alarming, a potential loss of 1.76 million people who make vital contributions to society and the economy every day.

There is nothing stopping the government from providing this certainty today and announcing that they will guarantee these rights before negotiations begin. Rather than weakening our hand, the gesture would be received positively in Europe and strike a constructive tone for coming talks. Doing the right thing for these people will not put us at a disadvantage. The stability this decision will bring to EU nationals will likewise bring much-needed certainty to business.

No matter what the outcome of today’s vote, London First will continue to make the case for a migration system, and a Brexit agreement, that works for business, London and the whole UK. We recently released a report on the impact of migration on London, Facing Facts, which dives into the data behind London’s international workforce, and we hope this fact base this will inform future immigration policy. There is still much more to be done on this issue, and I am looking forward to working with politicians and London First’s members in the coming months and years.

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