Just Tell EU Citizens They Can Stay on, U.K. Lawmakers Urge May

(Bloomberg) -- Don’t leave the fate of European Union citizens in the U.K. hanging in the balance, a panel of lawmakers in Parliament’s upper chamber told Prime Minister Theresa May, asking her to safeguard their status regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

If the government doesn’t immediately guarantee their rights to stay, about 3 million residents will be at the mercy of the country’s “byzantine” immigration law, and some may not meet the criteria for permanent residency, the cross-party House of Lords European Union Committee said on Wednesday in a report.

“People have no idea how, or even where, they should plan their futures,” Helena Kennedy, the baroness who chairs the committee, said in a statement. “The government is under a moral obligation to give a unilateral declaration immediately” to safeguard citizenship rights of all EU nationals in the U.K. when the U.K. withdraws from the EU.

The residency rights of EU citizens is one of the most contentions topics surrounding Brexit. May insists that the rights of Europeans to stay in Britain is a matter to be resolved in negotiations due to start next year and is contingent on some 1.2 million Britons living in other EU nations having the same guarantees. That’s led to criticism she’s using people as bargaining chips.

The Lords panel said that Britain should at least aim to resolve the issue as soon as possible once formal negotiations get under way. The devolved Scottish Parliament on Tuesday passed a motion demanding the central government guarantees the rights of 181,000 EU nationals to live and work in Scotland.