Tory leadership candidate Michael Gove is set to pledge free British citizenship for 3 million EU nationals after Brexit if he becomes prime minister, The Guardian reported, citing sources.
The Environment Secretary, who was one of the key figures in the Vote Leave campaign, is also planning to abolish the need to prove settled status, according to the media report.
Gove reportedly believes the pledge would honour promises given to EU citizens by the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum.
Gove has already pledged support to a campaign by the Conservative party backbencher Alberto Costa, who claimed to have canvassed opinions from leadership candidates on the issue.
“Michael Gove has fully agreed to adopt my proposals and he will publicly announce that it was wrong to put EU citizens on the negotiation table in the first place,” Costa told The Guardian.
“But he will also go further and offer them British citizenship at no cost if he becomes prime minister.”
“This is Michael’s way of saying to EU nationals: I’m sorry, the Vote Leave campaign was never about EU citizens’ rights."
“He is unambiguously demonstrating that leaving the EU is not about moving the goalposts of citizens’ rights and accordingly, he has my full support as a candidate for the premiership,” said Costa.
In line with the pledge that Gove is set to announce Tuesday, British citizenship shall be offered without cost to those who desire it, if the EU citizens were present in the UK prior to the referendum.
The move will potentially save the aspirants between £1,000 and £2,000.
For those who do not seek citizenship, a settled status will be granted, which under the agreement with the EU would continue to apply to EU arrivals during the transition period.
If he becomes PM, Gove is set to argue that EU citizens needn’t supply proof and there will be a presumption of their right to remain, thus bringing the UK in line with EU countries where a migrant EU national need only to inform their town hall of their ID and address.
The impending pledge, say experts, is a gesture bound to appeal to both wings of the Tory party: the liberals, who decried May’s harsh use of EU citizens as a bargaining tool, and Brexiters.
“Michael Gove is ready to unite the country. Guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals here in the UK through a declaratory scheme, and making a generous offer of citizenship to those lawfully here at the time of the referendum, is a first step in that direction,” said a source close to Gove.
Conservative party backbencher Alberto Costa left his post as parliamentary aide to David Mundell, the Scotland secretary, in a row over the issue in February.
The MP claimed to have approached the home secretary, Sajid Javid, who declared his Tory leadership bid on Monday, but the response had been negative.
In his letter to Costa, Javid wrote that although he completely understood the motivations behind his proposal to further extend the open approach to citizenship, “citizenship and naturalisation is and always has been a matter for individual member states and distinct from the issue of free movement rights or our membership of the EU”.
According to Costa the response clearly showed the home secretary was “not fit to be prime minister”.
Currently, Sajid Javid is the second most-preferred Conservative politician to take over from Theresa May, while Secretary of State for Environment Michael Gove holds third place.
The race for Tory leadership took off as British Prime Minister Theresa May announced her 7 June resignation as Tory leader on Friday. May reaffirmed she would continue to lead the government until a successor has been chosen.
Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, and Esther McVey, the former work and pensions secretary, are among those to have confirmed they will run as well.
According to recent figures, about 28 per cent of Britons believe that the ex-foreign minister Boris Johnson would become a good prime minister, placing him ahead of other potential candidates to replace May, according to a YouGov poll.