Questions over what Brexit means for EU Nationals living in the UK are continuing after Theresa May’s paper on EU citizens rights was published last month. May called her plan, which entitles current EU citizens and those who come to the UK during the pre-Brexit ‘grace period’ to a special settled status, “fair and serious”. The proposal hinges on the 1.2 million British citizens living in the EU maintaining their current citizenship rights, however it fails to meet the European demand that EU citizens in the UK are able to maintain EU rights alongside their British rights.

A Deloitte study has shown nearly half of all highly skilled EU nationals could leave the UK in the next five years. This echoes the fears of some of a so called ‘Brexadus’ and a subsequent labour crisis, as cabinet ministers begin to speak out against a hard Brexit following the result of the general election.

Notably, Jeremy Hunt was photographed with notes which stated ‘hard Brexit means people fleeing UK’ as he made his way to a cabinet meeting. One of Hunt’s aids insisted that the statement was intended as a potential follow up question from the opposition. The Health Minister has reiterated that “it is an early priority” for the government to secure rights for EU nationals “which was be broadly the same as the rights they have now”.

This is of course particularly important for Hunt considering the 150,000 EU nationals who work in our health and care services, and the 60,000 among them who work within the NHS. 5% of the UK population are immigrants from within the EU, which equates to 2.9 million people, many of whom form a serious contribution to the UK’s Public sector. Economist Jonathan Portes said earlier this year that Brexit is already having a profound effect on the recruitment and retention of public service workers. It was recorded that last year a record number of EU workers left the NHS, and this indicates the possible knock-on effect of Brexit for the current staffing crisis, exacerbated by growing debate around NHS funding and the public sector 1% wage cap.

The Brexit debate rages on as the consequences of last year’s referendum become ever clearer, with Dominic Cummings (one of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ camp and the man who was behind the ‘£350 million to the NHS’ bus) saying recently that there was an opportunity for Brexit negotiations to become a ‘debacle’. The issue of EU nationals is one of many coming into question as people ask what exactly a hard Brexit will look like in the future, and how sustainable a reality that will be.