EU migrants living in the UK will reportedly be given the right to remain in the country in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Leaked Cabinet papers seen by The Daily Telegraph reveal that ministers plan to take the “moral high ground” by unilaterally granting the 3.8 million EU nationals in the UK the right to stay.
However the move was also said to reflect concerns of potential labour shortages in key sectors of the economy once Britain is outside the EU.
The newspaper said the details would be set out in one of around 80 technical notes due to be published by the government, starting on Thursday.
The papers aim to help inform the public and businesses what to do in the event of a no deal.
It will mean EU citizens in the UK would be able to continue accessing the NHS and the benefits system, regardless of whether British nationals in the EU are granted reciprocal rights.
The leaked paper states: “The Home Office plans to make an offer to existing EU residents that they can remain in the UK in a ‘no deal’ scenario, in effect unilaterally implementing the [immigration element of the] Citizens’ Rights agreement agreed with the EU in December 2017.
“The proposal is to make the offer irrespective of whether the EU reciprocates. Any package would need resolution for the reciprocal elements of the December 2017 deal.
“Making an offer is not only important to provide certainty publicly, but will enable the UK Government to take the moral high ground.
“A number of other plans are also dependent on the Government’s position on this issue, relying heavily on the availability of existing labour in a ‘no deal’ scenario.”
The paper describes the issue as “one of the most important aspects” of the government’s no-deal planning.
A government spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on leaks.”
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will travel to Brussels on Tuesday for a further round of talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
Mr Raab said while he believed a deal was still “by far the most likely outcome” of the negotiations, a responsible government needed to set out the steps it was taking to mitigate the risks of no deal.