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The triggering of Article 50 should be the cut-off date after which EU nationals in the UK can no longer expect to stay after Brexit, according to the report of an independent Inquiry into the status of EU nationals in the UK after Brexit, released today. It calls on the Government to make a clear public commitment that the 3 million Europeans in the UK can stay, and should be offered Permanent Residence with the same health, social and educational rights as British citizens.

The Inquiry panel included voices from Leave and Remain, different political parties and from business and trade unions and was chaired by Gisela Stuart MP, former Chair of the Vote Leave campaign. Its remit was to examine how the Government can protect the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit and to make practical recommendations as to how to do this, starting from the premise that this is the right thing to do.

The Inquiry’s report also recommends major changes to the application process for Permanent Residence which, it says, is onerous for the applicant and risks overwhelming the Home Office with one of the biggest single administrative tasks it has ever undertaken. For the two-thirds of EU nationals (up to 2 million people) who have already been in the UK for five years, the Inquiry proposes a streamlined system using Local Authorities’ Nationality Checking Services, which already helps people with the paperwork for citizenship applications. It would also to cap the costs so those affected can secure status with minimum of expense.

Reform of this system is essential, the report suggests: at the 2015 rate of processing it would take 150 years to process the applications of all EU nationals currently in the UK. The Inquiry suggests checking these applications more efficiently using existing Government records held by HMRC, the DWP and the Ministry of Justice. The remaining cases would be processed by a dedicated team at the Home Office.

ICM research for British Future finds that 84% of the British public supports letting EU migrants stay – including three-quarters (77%) of Leave voters – with any future changes to freedom of movement applying only to new migrants.

The full Inquiry panel comprises: Gisela Stuart MP (Chair); Suella Fernandes MP; Kate Green MP; Suzanne Evans, UKIP Deputy Chair; Fraser Nelson, Editor of the Spectator; Seamus Nevin of the Institute of Directors; Owen Tudor of the TUC; Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex; and Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future.