I signed a pledge to call on Prime Minister Theresa May to guarantee unilaterally the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. I was delighted to welcome constituents Yves and Peter (left) to Parliament to support this campaign.
The Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrote to Conservative MPs during the recent Article 50 Bill debates to say: ‘I’d also like to reassure colleagues that Parliament will have a clear opportunity to debate and vote on this issue in the future. The Great Repeal Bill will not change our immigration system. This will be done through a separate Immigration Bill and subsequent secondary legislation so nothing will change for any EU citizen, whether already resident in the UK or moving from the EU, without Parliament’s approval.’
After the letter was sent, a number of Conservative MPs who had indicated that they would support an amendment to the Article 50 Bill to protect the rights of EU nationals, decided not to do so.
That meant that an amendment, which I supported, and which would have protected the rights of EU nationals in the UK was lost by 332 votes to 290 (a government majority of 42).
I supported the amendment because I believe that Parliament should protect the residency rights of EU nationals now and remove the doubts and fears expressed by many at the continuing uncertainty caused by the government’s inaction on this issue.
The fact that MPs from six different parties signed the the3million.org.uk, pledge this week shows the widespread concern of parliamentarians of this issue.
Workers from across Europe play a vital role in our public services, especially in the NHS and social care.
There are currently around 55,000 EU nationals working in the NHS and 84,000 working in social care in England alone. These services would not be able to survive without these EU nationals and the contribution they make. Some are long existing residents of the UK, they and their families deserve better than years of uncertainty and being reduced to bargaining chips in the upcoming negotiations.
The government must reconsider their stance on this important issue and unilaterally grants the Right to Remain for EU citizens before the process of Brexit negotiations begins.
I very much hope that the Home Secretary’s words are an indication that the government intends to act to protect EU citizen’s residency rights, but I will not be fully assured until Parliament has passed the relevant legislation.