Local Councillors in B&NES have added their voices to calls for the government to resolve the situation of EU nationals in the UK as soon as possible. There are over 6,000 residents from other EU countries in the district and around 3 million in the UK as a whole.
Councillors debated a motion on the issue at this evening’s meeting of full Council, which called for the government to prioritise reaching an agreement on EU nationals’ rights in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. The motion was approved by Councillors from all political groups. The motion was adopted by all Councillors, bar one abstention.
Councillor Andrew Furse (Kingsmead ward), who proposed the motion, commented:
“The government has said that securing the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK is a top priority for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. We want to send a message in support of that position.
“The situation facing EU nationals is unclear and very worrying. People feel they are no longer welcome in the UK and fear that they will be forced to leave; that their families could be ripped apart and that they could lose their homes and jobs. This is simply unjust.
“The government should seek to reach an agreement on reciprocal rights as the first order of business in the negotiations and the deal should be announced immediately so that the terrible uncertainty facing EU nationals could be ended. It’s unfair to ask them to live in limbo for two years.
“People from other EU countries make an enormous contribution to society and the economy and we need them to stay. One particular example is the NHS and social care system, which relies on thousands of EU nurses, doctors and other care professionals. There are over 500 EU nationals working in our local NHS Trusts; life-saving services would suffer if they were forced to leave.
“As Liberal Democrats we believe in an open, tolerant and united future for our country. The other message of this motion is to our friends from other EU countries; to tell them we want them to be able to stay; to tell them they’re part of our country and our community; and to tell them we will do all we can to fight for their rights and make them feel welcome.”
Isabella Stefanutti Spotswood, one of the 5,000 EU nationals living in Bath, added:
“I am an EU citizen and I have been living in the UK for eighteen years. I have a life here: a family, a job, a house, a busy social and civic life. Can one have two homes? I have: I love my country of origin (Italy) and I love Bath. Can one have two families? I have: I have an Italian family and a British family.
“The uncertainty over my right to live in the UK is worrying and distressing. The negative press towards EU ‘migrants’ is disappointing and I challenge being called a ‘migrant’, after having lived in the same place for almost half of my life. I would like the government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and to take a firm stand towards discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes.”
The deadline to register to vote in the West of England Mayoral Election is midnight on 13 April. The election will be on 4 May. More details are available here: https://www.westofengland-ca.org.uk/mayoral-election/
You can watch the debate on the Council's webcasts site: http://bathnes.public-i.tv/core/portal/home
Finally, here's the text of the motion:
- Recognises the invaluable contribution made by over 6,000 nationals from other EU countries living and working in Bath and North East Somerset.
- Recognises that their legal situation is uncertain, as is that of UK nationals living in other EU countries, and wishes to see their status resolved at the earliest possible moment.
- Agrees with government that reaching an agreement on reciprocal rights should be a priority for the forthcoming negotiations with the EU.
- Calls on government to simplify the administrative process for nationals from other EU countries already resident in the UK to obtain permanent residency and to ensure that there is no financial bar.
- Requests that these resolutions should be communicated to the MPs for Bath and North East Somerset and to the government.
- Encourages all those eligible to vote, including nationals from other EU countries resident in B&NES, to register to vote in the May 2017 West of England Mayoral election.