Theresa May was told not to use the rights of EU nationals living in the UK as a “bargaining chip” in the Brexit discussions in a report published today.
The Prime Minister has refused to guarantee the right of EU migrants to remain here until European nations have promised UK citizens living in their countries can also stay.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has also described EU nationals as one of Britain’s “main cards” in the Brexit talks.
But today’s report from the Commons Human Rights Committee suggests the Government would invite disaster if it tried to expel EU migrants,
The report suggests any attempt to remove people based on the amount of time they had been in the UK would be challenged in the courts because a range of other factors, including family connections and children’s residency rights, would have to be considered.
It says: “In the unlikely event that the Government sought to deport EU nationals, there could be the potential for significant, expensive and lengthy litigation leading to considerable legal uncertainty for a prolonged period of time.
“These cases would also have the potential to clog-up and overwhelm the court system.”
Committee chairman Harriet Harman said: “The Government must not use human rights as a bargaining chip.
“Moreover, the Government will continue to have obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as we set out in our Report.
“The UK Government could not deport the large numbers of EU nationals currently in the UK.”
Mrs May has promised to begin the process of leaving the EU, by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, by the end of March.
The Government is waiting for a ruling from the Supreme Court on the role MPs should have in the Article 50 process.
However, Mrs May has already conceded a plan for the Brexit talks will be presented to MPs early next year.
Yorkshire Labour MEP Richard Corbett has suggested he could support calls for a second referendum once the Brexit deal has been reached.
He said: “Well there are many people, I get lots of letters from people who say, ‘well hang on a minute, this was an advisory referendum won by a narrow majority on the basis of a pack of lies and a questionable mandate’.
“But if there is a mandate from this referendum it is surely to get a Brexit that works for Britain without sinking the economy.
“And if it transpires, as we move forward, that this is going to be a very costly exercise, then there will be people who voted leave who will say ‘hang on a minute, this is not what we were told.
“We were told it would save money, we could put it in the NHS, but if it is going to cost us an arm and a leg then I would like the right to reconsider’.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox insisted Britain was not faced with a choice between a “hard” and “soft” Brexit and hinted Britain could be a partial member of the EU customs union.
He said: “We want to look at all the different things, it’s not binary. I hear people talking about hard Brexit and soft Brexit as though it’s a boiled egg we are talking about, it’s a little more complex. So, Turkey, for example, is in part of the Customs Union, but not other parts.”