Labour vows to fight on for EU citizens’ rights

LABOUR MEPs vowed to continue fighting to secure rights of EU citizens in the UK despite the government successfully blocking a bid to make amendments to the Brexit bill.

Attempts to force the Government to give all EU citizens in the UK permanent residency after Britain leaves the EU were defeated in the House of Commons last week by 332 votes to 290.

Labour repeatedly emphasised EU citizens should not be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.

They say resolving this matter before negotiations begin would end unnecessary uncertainty for EU nationals and help negotiations get off to a positive start.

Labour MEPs wrote to Home Secretary Amber Rudd on behalf of EU citizens living in the UK, after they expressed grave concerns about their rights to permanently remain in the UK.

EU nationals have complained that in order to obtain permanent residency, applicants are being presented with an 85-page form requiring huge files of documentation, including P60s for five years, historic utility bills and a diary of all the occasions an individual has left the country since they settled in the UK.

Some say they have received letters inviting them to prepare to leave the country after failing to tick one of the boxes on the form.

In a letter widely circulated to MPs, Ms Rudd offered assurances about the rights of EU citizens, saying they would be treated with “the utmost respect, recognising the contribution they make not just to our economy, but also working in crucial public services like the NHS”.

North West MEP and European Labour Party chairman Theresa Griffin said: “It is outrageous that the Government is doing nothing to ensure EU citizens in the UK are protected after negotiations.

“The Prime Minister’s weak stance is furthering the anxiety and uncertainty that many EU nationals in the North West are facing.

“More shockingly, the Tories rejected a Labour Amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK. The contempt that the Tories are showing to those who play such a vital role in our society is utterly appalling.

“Losing EU nationals would not only be bad for our rich and diverse region, but terrible for our public services and local economies.

“Theresa May must make it clear that EU citizens are welcomed and that their rights will be ensured. People are not bargaining chips in negotiations ­- these are families, loved ones, carers and friends.”