Over 27,000 people call on Theresa May to give EU citizens the right to remain in Britain

More than 27,000 people have written to Theresa May calling on the UK Government and other European nations to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. They have called on the Prime Minister to present other EU leaders with a joint statement of principles to be agreed at her first EU summit beginning today.

The #WritetoRemain campaign, jointly organised by Open Britain and CommonGround, has set up a website www.writetoremain.uk where people can write to the Prime Minister urging her to make an explicit commitment to fair treatment for all EU citizens and ask her European counterparts to do the same.

The campaign, also backed by Bright Blue; British Future; British Influence; the Centre for European Reform; the European Council on Foreign Relations; European Movement; the IPPR; and the TUC, welcomes the Government’s expectation of protecting the rights of EU citizens but believes that the failure to guarantee those rights is causing uncertainty for the millions of people affected. Today’s meeting of the European Council represents the perfect opportunity for the Prime Minister to take the lead and show that neither EU nationals here nor Brits living on the continent are second-class citizens who will be used as pawns in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. 

Polling shows that this move would be supported by the overwhelming majority of the public – both among Remain and Leave voters – and would also honour the commitment made during the referendum campaign by Vote Leave.

Commenting, Nick Clegg MP said:

“There is a great deal of uncertainty following Britain’s vote to leave the EU. But nowhere is that uncertainty more worrying and, frankly, unacceptable than the ambiguity surrounding the rights of European nationals living here and those of British citizens on the Continent.

“So many families across the UK are made up of people from different EU countries, including mine. What they are looking for are immediate reassurances that their rights will not be affected by Brexit.

“That’s why I’m backing the #WriteToRemain campaign led by Open Britain and other civil society organisations, which is urging the Government to guarantee the status of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom and to get other Governments across the EU to do the same for British citizens living in Europe.”

Anna Soubry MP said:

“Since the referendum was held, millions of European citizens living in Britain are worried they could face changes of status or even expulsion from our country. The Prime Minister’s positive statements about their rights are very welcome but the Summit is the perfect chance to go one step further.

“Over 27,000 people have backed Open Britain’s ‘Write to Remain’ campaign, calling on her to guarantee the rights of EU citizens to remain in Britain, and persuade other EU leaders do the same for Brits living on the continent. Of course we must be hard-nosed entering these negotiations; but not to the point of using people as bargaining chips.”

Chuka Umunna MP said: 

“The support from British people for the right of EU citizens to stay in Britain is there for all to see. It’s time the government heeded their call.

“Theresa May cannot use people as pawns in a negotiation. It is time for her, with her European counterparts, to declare that European citizens in Britain, as well as British citizens living on the continent, will not have their right to remain compromised by Brexit.”


The ‘Write to Remain’ website is here: http://www.writetoremain.uk/.

The text of the proposed statement by EU leaders at the October European Council is: 

“This joint statement of principle commits to fair treatment for all EU citizens who may be affected by the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

“We commit to protecting the rights of EU citizens who are based in the UK and UK citizens who are based in the EU.

“The difficult logistical details this will entail will be worked on with mutual commitment, but we are united behind the principle that no citizens should have second class status by having undefined rights and status. 

“This statement underlines that the UK and EU will have a close and respectful bond regardless of the question of EU membership or the nature of our future relationship.”

On her visit to Denmark earlier this week, the Prime Minister said: “I expect to be able to guarantee the legal rights of EU nationals already in the UK so long as the British nationals living in Europe receive – in the countries who are member states of the EU – the same treatment.”


The Government has previously stated that “when we do leave the EU, we fully expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states, will be properly protected.”


It has recently been suggested that 80% of the EU nationals living here will qualify for residency by the time we are scheduled to leave the EU in 2019:


A recent statement from the Secretary of State for International Trade, however, suggested that the Government would not make this commitment soon because “to give that away before we get into the negotiation would be to hand over one of our main cards.”


Estimates vary on the number of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU but it is suggested that around 3 million EU citizens are living here and 1.2 million Brits are living in the EU: 


Polling shows that 84% of people (including 77% of Leave voters) support guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights. British Future – page 17, What next after Brexit?


Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Gisela Stuart, as part of the Vote Leave campaign, stated “there will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.” 


Hugo Dixon, co-founder of CommonGround, has written this article explaining why EU citizens living in the UK mustn’t be used as pawns: https://infacts.org/eu-citizens-living-uk-mustnt-used-pawns/

Owen Tudor, Head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department, has written this blog explaining why trade unionists and others should support this campaign: