September 28, 2017 / 12:15 PM / a year ago

UK business, unions ally to urge Brexit citizenship deal

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s leading business and union bodies jointly urged the British government and European Union on Thursday to guarantee their citizens’ rights after Brexit takes place in March 2019.

An umbrella with EU and British flags attached to it is held ahead of a speech by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May in Florence, Italy September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi

The uncertainty facing four million expatriate European and British citizens has become intolerable, said the heads of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) - who often sit on opposite sides of the corporate negotiating table.

“Millions of workers and thousands of firms are today united in their call to leaders on both sides to find an urgent solution,” the CBI’s Carolyn Fairbairn and the TUC’s Frances O’Grady said in a joint statement.

The issue of expatriate citizens’ rights has become a stumbling block in bilateral talks over Britain’s divorce.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said concessions made last week by UK Prime Minister Theresa May went in the right direction, but not far enough to move negotiations forward.

Describing the current situation as “human poker”, Fairbairn and O’Grady said “a clear guarantee of the right to remain” for citizens in Britain and the EU was needed within weeks.

The CBI and TUC said EU citizens accounted for 10 percent of registered doctors and 4 percent of nurses in Britain. “Millions more work in the public and private sectors delivering public services and making a vital contribution to our economy,” they said.

EU citizens giving evidence to a Scottish parliamentary committee on Europe said they had missed job opportunities in the UK due to confusion among employers on the need for a permanent residency card, which costs 160 pounds ($215) and can only be obtained by filling out an 80-page form.

But it is unclear whether the card will be valid post-Brexit when they will then need to apply for “settled status”, under proposals currently being discussed.

($1 = 0.7441 pounds)

Reporting by Andy Bruce; additional reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; editing by Stephen Addison and John Stonestreet

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