Michael Gove will offer FREE British nationality to three million eligible EU nationals in eye-catching Tory leadership pitch to ‘heal the nation’
- Environment secretary will waive the usual £1,330 fee for eligible EU nationals
- If he becomes Prime Minister he will also water down the ‘settled status’ scheme
- His supporters insisted the Tory candidate’s move was the ‘right thing to do’
Tory leadership contender Michael Gove (pictured outside his London home today) has launched an eye-catching initiative to help EU nationals get British citizenship
Michael Gove will offer three million EU citizens the chance of free British nationality if he becomes Prime Minister, in an eye-catching policy pitch in the Tory leadership race.
The environment secretary will waive the usual £1,330 fee for eligible EU nationals who lived in the UK at the time of the June 2016 referendum.
And in a break with Theresa May‘s policies, Mr Gove will also water down the controversial ‘settled status’ scheme for EU nationals, replacing it with a less stringent registration scheme.
Lobbying for Mr Gove’s leadership campaign, his supporters said the plan was intended to ‘heal the nation’.
Tory MP Alberto Costa, who has lobbied for such a move, said he was ‘delighted [Gove] will guarantee EU nationals’ rights with a declaratory scheme and offer them fee free British Citizenship.
‘This is the morally right thing to do & will help heal our nation. He has my full support to be our next PM.’
Foreign citizens must have lived in the UK for at least five years to be eligible for British nationality.
It is believed there are around 3million such people in the UK.
Speaking to Sky News, sources close to Mr Gove said: ‘This is simply the right thing to do – honouring the promise of Vote Leave that EU nationals studying, working and living in the UK were welcome to stay.
‘Michael Gove led that campaign and now he’s ready to deliver Brexit.’
The policy launch will be seen as a bid to stand out from the crowd in a busy Tory leadership race which also features Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Gove previously ran for the leadership in 2016, infamously sabotaging Mr Johnson’s campaign after initially backing him.
This year he is posing as a self-styled ‘unity candidate’.
‘I believe that I’m ready to unite the Conservative and Unionist Party, ready to deliver Brexit, and ready to lead this great country,’ he said.
Mr Gove, pictured announcing his entry into the Tory race yesterday, has pledged to water down the controversial ‘settled status’ scheme for EU nationals
However he was forced to clarify previous comments that he was ‘incapable’ of being prime minister, now insisting he had ‘evolved’.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘I’ve changed my mind. In those three years I have been through a variety of experiences. I think that I’ve evolved as a politician.’
Mrs May’s ‘settled status’ scheme has sparked concerns from rights groups who have warned of a new Windrush scandal.
Critics have warned that thousands could be left without legal status if applications were not processed quickly and efficiently.
EU nationals and their family members who wish to remain in the country beyond June 2021 must apply to the settlement scheme.
Applicants are asked to prove their identity, declare any criminal convictions and upload a facial photograph.
Government estimates indicate that between 3.5 million and 4 million EEA citizens will be eligible to apply.
In January Mrs May scrapped a £65 fee for EU citizens wanting to stay in Britain after Brexit on the same day as the registration policy was rolled out.