European migrants arriving in Britain after next month are set to lose the right to remain permanently in this country, under plans being drawn up by Theresa May.
Whitehall sources said the Prime Minister is planning to make the ‘cut-off’ date for new EU migrants the point when she triggers formal Brexit proceedings in March.
The move is the first step in ending free movement, as EU migrants arriving after this date will not have the automatic right to live and work in this country once Britain has left the European club.
Home Office lawyers have dismissed calls to use the referendum date in June last year as the cut-off, warning it would lead to court action by migrants whose rights under EU law had been taken away.
No 10 played down the report today, insisting the issue remained one Mrs May was eager to resolve early in the negotiations while adding control of immigration was a clear post-Brexit goal.
European migrants arriving in Britain after March could be set to lose the right to permanent work and stay to coincide with the triggering of formal Brexit proceedings, a source said
But Ministers are also wary of waiting until Britain actually leaves the EU, probably in 2019, to set the cut-off – warning this could create a ‘surge effect’, with migrants seeking to enter the UK before the deadline.
Downing Street last night insisted that a final decision had not been taken.
But one Whitehall source said: ‘Setting a retrospective date is fraught with legal problems and if you set a date two years into the future, you are giving people who might be considering coming here an awful lot of notice.
‘So it makes a lot of sense to do it at or around the point when we trigger Article 50 next month.’
Ministers are under intense pressure to guarantee the rights of the estimated 3.3 million EU migrants who have settled in the UK in recent years.