New research reveals dangers to civil service of failing to guarantee rights of EU citizens

The Government has no idea how many citizens of EU countries work for it, though the real number is likely to be in the thousands, and it must therefore guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in Britain after Brexit, Vote Leave Watch says today.

New figures show that nearly 1,000 civil servants who are EU nationals are employed by just four Government departments – with the true figure likely to be much higher, as the large majority of departments do not know how many EU nationals work for them.

The Government has so far refused to give EU nationals already legally resident in Britain the right to remain – despite the fact that this was promised by Leave campaigners like Boris Johnson – and has stated that it sees them as “one of our main cards” in negotiations with the EU.

Chuka Umunna MP, the Chair of Vote Leave Watch, put down parliamentary questions to all Government departments. Only four – the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy; the Department for Communities and Local Government; the Department of Health; and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – had even partial figures for the number of EU nationals working for them. They named a combined total of 968 staff who are from EU member states other than the UK. However, the true figure is likely to be considerable higher, as not all staff in these departments have declared a nationality. The Department of Health has by far the most EU nationals in its staff, with 816.

Extrapolated across all Government departments, it is clear that thousands of EU citizens work in the civil service. The fact that most departments have no idea how many EU citizens work in them also demonstrates the futility of trying to force employers to provide the same data, as advocated by Amber Rudd at Conservative Party conference.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Chair of Vote Leave Watch, said:

“It’s extraordinary that the Government has still not guaranteed the rights of EU citizens to stay in Britain, when our Government machinery is so dependent on EU nationals to keep it running.

“And their plans to force firms to account for all of their European workers appear even more laughable when it emerges that most Government departments have no idea how many EU nationals work for them, let alone for anyone else.

“The Government needs to stop thinking of EU citizens as cards in a game of poker, and start acknowledging the vital work they do. They must start by keeping the Leave campaign’s promise, and giving them the right to remain in the UK.”

Dave Penman, General Secretary of the FDA, said:

"Like many organisations in the UK we benefit hugely from the skills and experience of individuals from all over the world, including thousands of EU nationals who are part of our world-class civil service.  In the months and years ahead, their skills as well as the knowledge and experience of UK civil servants who currently work directly with EU institutions will be invaluable in the delivery of Brexit.

"Uncertainty over their future residency or job security not only has implications for those individuals, but also the future delivery of public services. The FDA is therefore repeating its call for the Government to give civil servants and the public the necessary assurances, so they can continue to deliver the Government’s objectives with the confidence needed to make this a success.”

Lord Hannay, former UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, said:

"Citizens from other EU member states working here in our civil service are an often-overlooked part of the wider equation of how to treat people working outside their own country after Brexit.

“It would be an act of self- harm and ingratitude if we were to put their jobs at risk. So why cannot the government say forthwith that their positions will be protected?"