Two heavyweight organisations have launched a rare direct attack on the Government over its handling of EU citizens’ status after Brexit.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Confederation of British Industry (CBI) joined forces to say the uncertainty facing four million European and British citizens had become “intolerable”.
Their two leaders, Frances O’Grady and Carolyn Fairbairn, wrote: “After 15 months of human poker, the uncertainty facing four million European and UK citizens has become intolerable.
“It is a blight on the values of our nations. Millions of workers and thousands of firms are today united in their call to leaders on both sides to find an urgent solution.
“A clear guarantee of the right to remain for citizens in both the UK and EU27 is needed within weeks.
“They need to hear that they will be allowed to remain in the UK, whatever the eventual outcome of negotiations.
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“Not only is this important for our economy, it is the right thing to do.”
The two organisations – representing industry and trade unions – have not issued a joint statement since June 2016, when they called for ministers to “allay the concerns” of EU and UK nationals whose future immigration status was suddenly thrown into doubt.
Their latest intervention came as the fourth round of Brexit talks concluded, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier warning it could be “several months” before discussions move on to trade.
The Liberal Democrats said Theresa May had “pulled off what seemed the impossible” by uniting the two organisations – who between them represent millions of workers and 190,000 businesses.
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A Brexit Department spokesperson responded: “The UK remains determined to swiftly reach an agreement that provides reassurance for both EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.
“We have made good progress in the course of the negotiations, and last week in Florence the Prime Minister reassured EU citizens living in the UK that they will be able to carry on living their lives as before by committing to incorporate our agreement on citizens’ rights fully into UK law.”
In June, Mrs May declared that EU citizens who had been living in the UK for longer than five years would be able to apply for “settled status” and bring over spouses and children.
Image: The government said ‘good progress’ had been made in negotiations
Analysis: Sky News Political Correspondent Robert Nisbet
“The TUC and the CBI have issued joint statements before – on traineeships and urging tolerance after the referendum result – but the tone here is unusually sharp.
“To talk about ‘human poker’ and a ‘blight on our nations’ is uncharacteristically blunt – but neither group actually spells out what they think should happen next.
“Frances O’Grady says she would like Theresa May to offer a ‘goodwill gesture’ to end the deadlock, but the two sides are stuck over who would have legal jurisdiction over the three million EU residents living in the UK.
“But the negotiating process is so fraught and so complex, it’s difficult to see how this joint interjection will loosen the logjam, however forceful the language.”