Polish worker Dominik Wasilewski outside the Dwa Koty Polish delicatessen in Crewe
Labour MP who backed Brexit accuses the government of leaving European immigrants ‘in limbo’
Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP who campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union, has said that EU nationals living in the country have been “left in limbo” since the referendum. The former co-chair of the Vote Leave campaign is now leading the inquiry for the centre-left think-tank British Future and calling for citizens who arrived in the country before the vote to be allowed to stay.
“There is wide agreement, among the public, politicians and business, that EU citizens are welcome here and that the government should make clear they can stay,” Stuart told the BBC. “This is the right thing to do and what the Leave campaign promised all along.”
However, the MP has been accused of hypocrisy by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron. “She happily put her name to a campaign which repeatedly whipped up anti-immigrant feeling, so it’s pretty shameful that she’s now claiming to be worried about EU citizens in the UK,” he told The Guardian.
“It is like the arsonist turning around and saying they are surprised that a fire took hold.” While the British government has repeatedly attempted to reassure the three million EU nationals currently living in the UK, it has not ruled out the possibility of deportations in the future.
The UK remains a part of the EU until Article 50 has been triggered and the negotiations with other member states concluded, which could take two years. Residence rights will stay the same until then. “When we do leave the EU, we fully expect that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK and that of UK nationals in EU member states, will be properly protected,” the government has said.
Last month, a senior civil servant guaranteed that EU nationals who are permanent residents in the UK will automatically be allowed to stay in the country after Brexit. Mark Sedwill said EU citizens who had lived in the country for five years and obtained a permanent residence card cannot legally be told to leave. However, the rights of other European nationals were subject to the terms negotiated with other member states, as well as the will of parliament.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she would like to secure residence rights for EU nationals, but said it would be dependent on the bloc agreeing to give British expats in member states similar entitlements.