More than 1,500 EU citizens living and working in the UK and British citizens in the EU descended Westminster on Wednesday 13 September, lobbying MPs to guarantee that their rights continue after the UK leaves the EU.
Parliament saw what could be the biggest ever e-lobby of MPs with over 1000 worried UK and EU nationals participating virtually as they can’t make the trip to London.
Politicians including Dominic Grieve MP (Conservative), Paul Blomfield MP (Labour), Joanna Cherry MP (SNP), Ed Davey MP (Liberal Democrats) and Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru) addressed the lobbyists before the event at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster.
A rally afterwards in Trafalgar Square was supported by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, hosted by stand-up comedian and actress Gráinne Maguire and accompanied by the voices of 15 EU choirs.
The campaign was organised by civil rights group the3million together with UNISON and supported by British in Europe, a coalition of citizens groups throughout the EU.
Nicolas Hatton, founding co-chair of the3million, said:
“We came to Britain and made it our home. We paid taxes, we started businesses, we started families. We understand that immigration rules are likely to change. But it is wrong to move the goalposts after the match has started for those of us who are already living and working here. All we want is exactly what we have now. We’re not asking for anything new or anything special.
Now is the time for parliament to make a commitment to nearly five million people left in limbo.”
The chair of British in Europe, lawyer Jane Golding who lives in Germany, added:
“It is essential the rights of people who move and work freely around the EU are guaranteed now and ‘ring fenced’ from all other aspects of the Brexit negotiations.
If that doesn’t happen soon, the frightening prospect of a ‘no-deal’ scenario could destroy EU citizens’ faith in the countries we call home, whether the UK or another European country.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “These millions of people have been forced to live with uncertainty about their futures.
This is despite helping to keep the UK’s public services and economy going. The government must make it clear that their rights are guaranteed once the UK leaves the EU.”
Immigration minister Brandon Lewis tried to reassure EU citizens in the UK. In a statement, he said:
“…the government recognises how vital you are to this country, we are committed to protecting your rights and we are doing everything possible to reach a final agreement on this issue with the EU at the earliest possible stage.”