• Theresa May says status of EU residents to be decided in talks
  • Vaz tells May uncertainty leaves EU nationals ‘in limbo’

European Union citizens living in Britain should receive an immediate guarantee that their rights will be protected and mustn’t become a “negotiating tool” in future Brexit talks, a cross-party panel of lawmakers said on Tuesday.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, has written to Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May urging them to provide certainty to EU nationals in Britain about their future.

“European Union citizens who have acquired the right to live and work in the U.K. should not be used as a negotiating tool in any discussions between the government and the EU over the terms of our exit,” Vaz said in the statement e-mailed by the panel. “I therefore urge the home secretary to clarify her comments and to immediately vow to protect these people’s rights to live and work in the U.K.”

May, the favorite to succeed Cameron in the Tory leadership election, said on Sunday that the future of some 3 million EU citizens in Britain and 1.2 million Britons in the continent would be decided during formal Brexit negotiations that are yet to start.

Backlash

That prompted a backlash from fellow candidates, with Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom pledging to preserve the rights of EU citizens, saying they shouldn’t be used as “bargaining chips,” and Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb calling May’s stance “appalling.”

“Statements such as this create huge uncertainty for those affected, all of whom have entered their country of residence legally under current rules,” Vaz wrote to May in a letter dated Tuesday. The U.K.’s failure to announce a clear timeline for withdrawal “leaves those living outside of their country of origin in limbo, with no indication of their residency rights in the coming months and years.”

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