The U.K.'s Brexit minister gave an insight into how workers from the European Union (EU) would be treated in a post-Brexit Britain when he told lawmakers that EU employees would be allowed to remain — provided other countries afforded the same protection to British workers.
"The prime minister is determined to protect the status of EU workers already here," David Davis told the U.K. parliament's House of Commons.
Davis was appointed Secretary of State for the newly established department for Exiting the European Union after the Brexit vote on June 23. He was a keen proponent of quitting the bloc in the run-up to the referendum.
"This is an historic and positive moment for our nation," Davis said in a statement to lawmakers on Monday. "Brexit isn't about making the best of a bad job. It is about seizing the huge and exciting opportunities that will flow from a new place for Britain in the world. There will be new freedoms, new opportunities, new horizons for our country."
He added that "most of those that wanted to remain (in the EU) have accepted the vote."
Thousands of pro-Europe protesters marched in London at the weekend, calling for the government to delay the formal process of leaving the EU. Pro-Brexit demonstrators staged a counter-protest.
"The prime minister has made clear there will be no attempt to stay in the European Union by the back door… no attempt to engineer a second referendum because some people didn't like the answer in the first one," Davis said.
Davis's words may provide some certainty to U.K. businesses that employ EU nationals and are concerned about their future residency status.
Forty-one percent of U.K. companies say EU employees from outside the country have expressed concern over their residency status, according to a survey of 800 firms published by the British Chambers of Commerce on Monday. Ten percent of businesses reported that EU employees had stated their intention to leave the U.K. and 5 percent said some employees had already resigned. The lobbying group called on the U.K. government to confirm that existing workers had a right to remain in the U.K. and to clarify how new EU hires will be treated.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May said the U.K. would not adopt the points-based immigration system advocated by pro-Brexit campaigners. Such a system would see potential immigrants awarded points according to the skills, education and other factors to judge whether they should be allowed in.
Brexit will "put sovereignty and supremacy of the parliament beyond doubt," Davis said on Monday.
On Wednesday, the U.K. parliament's second house, the House of Lords, will listen to evidence on the potential impact from Brexit on financial services, which are a major contributor to the British economy.
Despite the warnings of a swift hit to the U.K. economy, recent data have been stronger than some had feared. The U.K. services sector appears to be holding up well so far. On Monday, the Markit/CIPS services purchasing managers' index (PMI) showed the sector rebounded in August by 5.5 points — the survey's biggest jump in its 20-year history. It came in at 52.9, above the 50-mark that demarcates expansion from contraction.
"The latest data suggest our manufacturing and services industries … are all strong," Davis said on Monday.