A group of civil society organisations is 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 organised a letter writing campaign to the Prime Minister which asks her to present other EU leaders with a joint statement of principles to be agreed at her first EU summit next week.
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. The upcoming 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.
Chuka Umunna, leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said:
“We support and welcome the Government’s repeated commitments to safeguarding the rights of EU nationals already here in the UK. The upcoming summit is the perfect chance to make that commitment binding.
“EU nationals here and Brits living in the rest of the EU are people, not pawns to be used in Brexit negotiations.
“EU citizens living here make an enormous contribution to our economy and our society and they and their families deserve to be given categorical assurances without further worrying delay.”
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said:
“EU citizens living in the UK are our friends, neighbours, and workmates. They might be your doctor or your child’s teacher. It’s immoral to keep them in limbo, and inhuman to treat them as bargaining chips.
“The public believes they deserve to stay, and Brits living on the continent need a guarantee they can stay too. So we call on the Prime Minister to do the right thing and sign a joint commitment to the right to remain.”
Hugo Dixon, co-founder of CommonGround, said:
“Since the referendum, many EU citizens living here feel unwelcome. Brits living in the rest of the EU are also worried.
“Reassuring them that they won’t be kicked out or become second-class citizens will go a long way to heal a divide that is opening in our society.
“Doing this now will also help the Brexit talks start on a good footing.”
Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:
“Businesses employ people from EU nations in Britain and we send staff across the EU.
“The ability to employ and deploy people is a vital ingredient for successful businesses and the last thing we need is more uncertainty.
“That is why it’s simply the right thing for Britain and other EU member states to end the game-playing on this issue and reassure people that their status is not up for negotiation.”
Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:
“Conservatives, of all people, should know the importance of ensuring individuals have the freedoms and stability they crave without then being trampled on by those with power.
“Those from the EU who currently live in our country, and contribute enormously to it, should not be at the mercy of government game playing.”
The ‘Write to Remain’ website is here: http://www.writetoremain.uk/
Terry Scouler is commenting in a personal capacity.
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: