Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, explains why the Prime Minister’s response to Islington Labour’s demands on the rights of local people from other EU countries is not enough.
It is unacceptable that, more than eighteen months on since the UK voted to leave the European Union, the Tory Government has still not guaranteed the rights of local people from other EU countries.
Islington Labour has repeatedly called on the Tory Government to immediately guarantee the full rights of local people from other EU countries. You can add your voice to our demands by signing our petition urging the Government to the right thing.
I recently wrote to the Prime Minister, along with the 20 other Labour Leaders of London Boroughs, to urge her to guarantee the rights of local people from other countries in the European Union. The letter sets out our concerns that, despite the Government’s warm words, EU Citizens’ basic right to live, work and remain in the UK after Brexit has not been guaranteed.
Almost two months later, we received a less than satisfactory response from the Minister for Immigration, Caroline Nokes MP.
The Minister’s letter acknowledged that “EU citizens make a significant contribution to our national life and we want them to stay” and that “the Government has been clear since the start of negotiations that protecting their rights… was our first priority”. That is all well and good, but there is no reason why the Government cannot guarantee the rights of local people from other EU countries immediately without making them part of the Brexit negotiations.
The letter also claimed that the Government has “reached an agreement with the EU on citizens’ rights”, but that is not quite the case. The Minister is referring to the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, which includes a promise to protect the rights of EU Citizens. However, this is not the final deal. There is still much left to negotiate before the UK is due to leave the EU. If a final deal is not reached before this point, there is no guarantee that the agreements reached so far on EU Citizens’ rights will be upheld.
Islington is home to people from across the world, including around 30,000 people from other countries in the European Union. They make a huge contribution to our community, economy and public services. We would be poorer in every sense of the world if they left because the Government has failed to guarantee their basic right to remain in the UK after Brexit.
The Minister’s letter also refers to the new ‘settled status’ scheme that will be introduced to process the residency of local people from other EU countries after Brexit. Unfortunately, many questions still remain about this scheme, including how easily the Home Office will be able to process millions of applications. This bureaucratic approach seems unnecessarily complicated when there is a much simpler solution available to the Government; to guarantee the full rights of EU Citizens now.
Islington Labour is on the side of local people, wherever in the world they are from. We will not rest until the Government has stopped treating local people as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations. You can join our campaign by signing our petition to urge the Government to guarantee the full rights of EU Citizens now.
Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council