Particularly when it comes to the rights of EU nationalsby Richard Newby / February 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
On 23rd June, three million people became homeless. People across the UK suddenly found themselves unclear of their futures, not sure whether their neighbours, colleagues and friends saw them as welcome, or whether their rights were to be withdrawn. These three million EU nationals now feel even less secure. They are—with alarming frequency—abused in the checkout aisle and on busses and streets. And they are getting absolutely no reassurance from the government.
Soon after the referendum vote, in one of the many debates on Brexit in the House of Lords, UKIP’s Malcolm Pearson baldly stated that the UK has the “stronger hand” in future negotiations because so many EU nationals reside in the UK. He saw the lives of these people as suitable pawns in a greater game with Europe. No matter their own desires, their own goals and aspirations, they would be used as no more than weights on a scale.
At the time, his question and its wording were met with boos and consternation in the chamber, yet over six months later, with little transparency from the government, it increasingly appears that it has been moved by UKIP’s game plan and is adopting it into its own. Earlier this month, MPs voted against an amendment to the Brexit Bill which would have given all EU citizens in the UK permanent residency post-Brexit. Just three Tory MPs voted in favour.
As the Article 50 Bill comes to the House of Lords, we cannot accept this state of affairs.
This is where the Liberal Democrats and the wider House of Lords must seek changes. We do have the power to ask the government to think again on any piece of legislation, large or small. And I hope the government will accept this alteration. There are many in the Lords, on all benches, who want some clarity for these three million in advance of any deal which forms part of the Brexit negotiations.
Very many of us across the Lords have always been proud internationalists. We have a profound and deep-rooted commitment to partnership with our European neighbours, a partnership which has resulted in a peaceful Europe, where we work in cooperation with one another to overcome common adversaries—climate change, disease, terrorism—and to share in the benefits of a close relationship. We…