Theresa May has been criticised by business leaders for failing to guarantee the post-Brexit status of European Union nationals after admitting their rights could “fall away” if Britain leaves the bloc with no deal.
The uncertainty facing EU citizens was described as “intolerable” and “a blight on the values of our nation” by Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director general Carolyn Fairbairn.
At the CBI’s London lunch, she warned that if even some of the one million EU nationals who live and work in the capital leave the country, Britons’ “health and wealth” will suffer.
Ms Fairbairn also urged the Government to agree a transition period by the end of the year before beginning to outline the shape of a future trade relationship with the EU, as London companies are starting to plan for a “no deal” Brexit.
Her intervention comes after the Prime Minister warned that rights held by more than three million EU nationals in the UK could “fall away” if a withdrawal agreement is not sealed by the date of Brexit in March 2019.
Mrs May also stressed during her Tuesday appearance on LBC that the Government was working to get a “really good deal” but admitted: “We don’t know what will happen.”
Appearing alongside London mayor Sadiq Khan at the CBI event, Ms Fairbairn said: “As Brexit uncertainty continues, London’s bright lights must not be allowed to dim, whether by accident, delay, or design.
“We must not close the door on its open economy.
“One million EU citizens live and work in London. The NHS has 13,000 staff from Ireland. 8,000 Poles, 7,500 Spaniards, 6,000 Italians.
“London’s hospitals have more EU-born staff than any other English region. If even some decide to leave, both our health and wealth will suffer.