Tuesday

16th Apr 2024

Calls multiply to protect rights of EU citizens in UK

The British government and Conservative leadership candidates are facing calls to reassure 3 million EU citizens living in the UK that they will not be kicked out after Brexit.

Home secretary Theresa May, who is a favourite to become the next Tory leader and prime minister, sparked off the debate when she suggested in her candidature speech that she would use the rights of EU migrants and workers to remain in the UK as a bargaining card in discussions with Brussels on the rights of UK migrants in the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • A waitress in a London cafe: Polish workers in UK have suffered from hate speech after Brexit vote (Photo: Mike Atherton)

She repeated the idea in an interview with the ITV broadcaster on Sunday (3 July).

"As part of the negotiation, we will need to look at this question of people who are here in the UK from the EU, and I want to be able to ensure that we’re able to not just guarantee a position for those people, but guarantee the position for British citizens who are over in other member states, in other countries in Europe and living there", she said.

"Their position at the moment is as it has been. There’s no change at the moment, but of course we have to factor that into the negotiations."

Her comments have drawn criticism from more than 30 influential figures, who signed off a letter calling upon Downing Street, opposition parties and the five Tory leader-wishful “to make a clear and unequivocal statement that EU migrants currently living in the UK are welcome here and that post-referendum changes would apply only to new migrants.”

The letter, co-signed by Leave advocates Daniel Hannan MEP, UKIP’s only MP Douglas Carswell and Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott, as well as by Labour and Remain representatives and business representatives, NGO leaders and scholars, recalled that Vote Leave had promised to protect the status of EU citizens.

Steve Peers, a professor of EU law at the University of Essex, another signatory, said May’s statement was ”a repellent idea”, violating international law and the European convention on human rights. He said UK immigration law could immediately be amended to guarantee the position of EU citizens - which would also ”send a message to racists” following the outburst of xenophobic attacks in the wake of Britain’s vote to sever ties with the EU.

British Future, a think tank, published a poll that showed that 84% of Britons, including three quarters (77%) of Leave voters, supported protecting the status of EU citizens in the UK.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon also dismissed the idea, saying that ”the fear and uncertainty this causes people who have built their lives here is cruel”.

The Scottish leader said she sought guarantees for Scotland’s 173,000 EU citizens with David Cameron and the five Conservative leadership candidates and said she would reaffirm her commitment at a meeting with European diplomats on Tuesday.

Tory contenders Stephen Crabb, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom, as well as Leave leader Boris Johnson, said over the weekend that EU citizens who live lawfully in the United Kingdom should be able to stay.

"There is no risk whatever to the status of the EU nationals now resident and welcome in the UK, and indeed immigration will continue – but in a way that is controlled, thereby neutralising the extremists", Johnson said in his column in The Telegraph, a British daily, on Sunday.

The remaining candidate is Liam Fox.

Analysis

The week of the Tory long knives

Since last week’s fateful Brexit vote, Westminster has turned into Game of Thrones meets House of Cards.

Brexit Briefing

The battle for Maggie Thatcher’s handbag

The next UK prime minister will be a woman. That, at least, is clear. Not much else is in the race between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom for the Tory leadership.

Brexit-affected citizens want special deal on rights

Facing two years of uncertainty while Brexit negotiations are underway, EU and UK citizens caught up in the political battle want a separate agreement to secure their rights and future.

Latest News

  1. EU puts Sudan war and famine-risk back in spotlight
  2. EU to blacklist Israeli settlers, after new sanctions on Hamas
  3. Private fears of fairtrade activist for EU election campaign
  4. Brussels venue ditches far-right conference after public pressure
  5. How German police pulled the plug on a Gaza conference
  6. EU special summit, MEPs prep work, social agenda This WEEK
  7. EU leaders condemn Iran, urge Israeli restraint
  8. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us