Government has said The UK would lose “negotiating capital” in Europe if it unilaterally granted EU citizens the right to remain after Brexit.
EU citizens from the office of the home secretary, Amber Rudd, the government said it “recognises that EU nationals make an invaluable contribution to our economy and society”.
However, in an apparent hardening of the official position, the letter warned that the government cannot do anything to address their position after Brexit until it has assurances that British citizens in Europe will receive reciprocal protection in the country where they have settled.
“The prime minister has been clear that she wants to protect the status of EU nationals already living here, and the only circumstances in which that would not be possible are if British citizens’ rights in other EU member states were not protected in return,” it added.
“The Home Office is overwhelmed by [the backlog of 100,000] applications for permanent residency. The system is not working, but instead of addressing it, they just stick their heads in the sand. It is quite shocking really.
“It is quite clear that there is no change in their position and no recognition that the current system will not work.”
The permanent residency form requires evidence of every absence out of the country and, in some cases, such as stay-at-home parents, proof of comprehensive sickness insurance.
This has come as a shock to many, including Britons married to EU citizens whose partners have stayed at home to bring up children. It may also cause problems for those who find that a five-year continuous period in Britain does not qualify them for residency, if they have taken a year or two out of work.
Hatton pointed out that the systems deployed by other EU member states for EU residents who are not nationals are much simpler.
“The amount of proof they require in this country is quite ridiculous and I wish that the Home Office would have at least started to think about that and think laterally,” he said.
Several EU citizens who have contacted the Guardian, including German neuroscientist Sam Schwarzkopf, received letters asking them to make preparations to leave the country, even though they have been in the UK for more than a decade.