BRITISH Home Secretary Theresa May has refused to rule out the deportation of EU nationals after the country leaves the European Union, amid fears guaranteeing their rights at this stage could lead to a ''huge influx'' of migrants during the Brexit negotiation phase.
The clear frontrunner in the race to succeed David Cameron as Conservative leader and prime minister said although she wanted to ''guarantee the position'' of EU citizens currently living in the UK, their future could be up for negotiation.
A source close to Ms May told The Independent: ''She was saying it's unwise to promise right now that all EU nationals living in Britain should be able to stay indefinitely.
"The reason for that is if we did that the same rights would have to apply to any EU national who comes to Britain before we leave the EU.
"If we made that promise you could just see a huge influx ... of EU nationals who would all want to come here while they have that chance.''
The source also made clear that the issue was a negotiating point, adding: ''It would just be a bad negotiating position because we shouldn't guarantee the rights of EU nationals without having any guarantees the other way about British nationals living in EU members.''
Appearing on ITV's Peston on Sunday, Ms May said Brexit negotiations would encompass the issue of EU nationals living in the UK and Brits who had established a life in other countries within the EU.
"The position at the moment is as it has been ... but of course we have to factor that into negotiations," she said.
"As part of the negotiation we will need to look at this question of people who are here in the UK from the EU.''
Responding to her comments, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron demanded that EU nationals residing in the UK be given complete assurances they would have the right to stay in the UK indefinitely.
The party has committed to standing in the next election on the platform of securing Britain's place in the EU.