The policy is outlined in a White Paper detailing the government’s proposals for leaving the EU, which include controlling migration and pursuing a new Free Trade Agreement.
It states that the UK will aim to ‘secure the status of EU citizens' who are already living in the country as early as possible.
The government said it would have liked to resolve the issue before formal negotiations with the EU began, but it had not proved possible.
“The UK remains ready to give people the certainty they want and reach a reciprocal deal with our European partners at the earliest opportunity,” the White Paper states. “It is the right and fair thing to do.”
Concern for restaurants
The plans may alleviate some of the hospitality industry’s concerns after Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill claimed in January that firms could be hit with a £1,000 levy for employing workers from the EU.
Though Downing Street was quick to dismiss the idea as ‘misinterpreted’, businesses have been left in the dark over the status of their EU staff.
According to a study by Fourth Analytics approximately 43 per cent of workers in the restaurant, hotel, pub and QSR sector are foreign nationals, leading to fears that the UK’s exit from the EU could worsen the already troubling skills shortage in the hospitality industry.
The White Paper also outlines plans to introduce a new immigration system after a consultation with businesses, which could be phased in to allow employers time to prepare.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the ALMR, said: “Licensed hospitality is dependent on workers from the EU and any restrictions that undermine an employer’s ability to find the right staff could have consequences for pubs and bars, for the high street and for the wider economy.
“This needs to be at the forefront of the government’s minds as it approaches withdrawal from the EU.”
Exit negotiations with the EU are expected to take up to two years, with the UK predicted to leave the organisation in 2019.