U.K. Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove, who threw his hat into the ring to succeed Theresa May as Conservative Party leader over the weekend, has vowed to offer British citizenship to all EU nationals who were living in the U.K. at the time of the June 2016 Brexit referendum.
The £1,330 naturalization fee ($1,686) would be waived as a gesture of goodwill, Gove's aides confirmed to Sky News.
There are understood to be three million EU citizens in the UK who would be eligible, once they have been resident for five years.
The proposal, which will be formally unveiled next week, is a victory for Conservative MP Alberto Costa who has been campaigning for the rights of EU citizens post-Brexit for many months.
The Home Office's settled status scheme, under which EU citizens must prove they have lived in the UK for five years or they stand to lose their rights after Brexit, would also be changed to a registration scheme under Gove's plans.
"What Michael is offering is an incentive to EU nationals who register to get British citizenship at no cost," Costa, who is supporting Gove's leadership bid, told Sky News Monday. "They would, as British citIzens, be able to vote in general elections, so it would swell the franchise by up to three million people at the next general election in 2022. It's the Conservative Party which initiated this whole debacle, of EU citizens being deprived of their rights. We should sort it out. In a sense, it is apologizing and saying we welcome you, we want you to join the British family."